The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth Has Plant Life Found Nowhere Else


The island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean has a unique plant life that makes you feel like you’re walking on another planet.

The island of Socotra is part of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, constituting around 95% of its landmass. Situated 380 kilometres (240 miles) south of the Arabian Peninsula, it is politically a part of Yemen (part of the Arabian Peninsula and thus Western Asia), but geographically it is part of Africa.

Socotra is home to a high number of unique species, with around a third of its plant life being endemic and found nowhere else on the planet. Birds such as the Socotra starling, Socotra sunbird, and Socotra grosbeak are also only found on Socotra. Bats are the island’s only native mammal.

The island is also held by some to be the location of the Garden of Eden, due to its isolation and biological diversity, as well as its location on the edge of Yemen’s Gulf of Aden, which many connect with the ancient Sumerian tales of a paradise called Dilmun.

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Socotra has been described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth,” and with a reason too. Take a look at the the Socotra desert rose or bottle tree (Adenium socotranum), for example.

The bottle tree looks like elephants’ legs with pink flowers on top

The Socotra Desert Rose or Bottle Tree can grow into amazing forms. Source

Another amazing endemic species is the dragon’s blood tree that looks like a flying saucer perched on a trunk

It is named after the blood-like color of the red sap that the tree produces

The Socotra golden winged grosbeak is only found on Socotra Island

This Frankincense tree decided to grow at an impossible location

Just like this bottle tree…

This dragon blood tree has two faces

Dragon blood trees look even more amazing when in blossom

Socotra is also home to around 60,000 inhabitants and some unique architecture

Photo: Peter Banny

But visitors primarily come here for the unique natural environment – just look at this

For many years Socotra hosted a Soviet naval port and was off limits to almost everyone

On top of one of Socotra’s sand dunes. Truly an amazing place. Photo: Luka Esenko (Public Domain)

In recent years it is accessible, but the authorities are very protective of the natural resources and it is illegal to collect plant material of any type

Truly an amazing place.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4