Skull flower

By Phil Plait | September 5, 2012 7:00 am

This is quite simply one of the best examples of pareidolia – seeing faces or other familiar things in otherwise random patterns – I have ever seen:

How cool is that?

The picture was taken by Todd Terwilliger, and I had a bit of a time tracking it down! Anthony Mills sent me a tweet about the picture, but that went to a "Picture of the Day" kind of site. I used reverse Google image search, but that returned dozens of sites and blogs that had used the image without permission or a link to the original (grrrr). I dug a little deeper, and eventually found Todd’s page on Flickr. I sent him a note and he kindly gave me permission to use it.

So I make this plea: when you use a picture form the ‘net, please please please give credit and a link to the original source! It makes life a lot easier for folks like me who like to share fun stuff, and it’s the right thing to do.

Credit: Todd Terwilliger, used by permission

Related Posts:

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Dragon hunting above, dragon hunting below
A dragon fight in the heart of Orion (one of my all time faves!)


Comments (39)

  1. Chris

    Perfect for that special someone on Valentine’s Day and Halloween!

  2. So, that¬īs what he (citation needed*) looks like.


  3. Larry

    Wipe that s***-eatin’ grin off your face!

  4. thetentman

    Reminds me of my mother in law. I got the same chills from looking at it as I did from looking at her.

  5. @4 thetentman
    So christmas felt out of season?

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    The picture was taken by Todd Terwilliger, and I had a bit of a time tracking it down!

    Terwilliger as in Sideshow Bob’s surname from the Simpsons? (No relation I’m sure!) ūüėģ

    Roses are skullish, violets are dead
    The wilting ole flower’s like the bones in your head?! ūüėČ

    Both senses of “in your head” there really, come to think of it. ūüėČ

  7. noen

    This was obviously the work of fairies.

  8. Nigel Depledge

    Such a cool shot!

  9. FlyboyJDG

    My 3 year old son took one look at this picture and said, “look at that monkey flower.”

  10. Terry

    My favorite example of pareidolia is that I see the robinsion earth map projection in the WMAP.

  11. Marina Stern

    While I love Skullrose, I still prefer Angry Slippers.

  12. thetentman

    It would make a good Grateful Dead Album cover

  13. Polo

    Maybe this flower-skull is not a random pattern. Usually the petals wither and fall from the outside inwards, and here they are the opposite, possibly due to the flower being heated and dried to get the effect.

  14. Bill

    Clearly, someone’s been shopping at the Little Shop of Horrors…

  15. bouch

    Alas, poor Yorick! I grew him, Horatio…

  16. CatMom

    Another victim of the Miracle-Gro weight loss plan.

  17. mike burkhart

    Just in time for Halloween ,and I see Phil is getting into the spirit.A little off topic science fiction movies I’ve seen lately on dvd: Airplane 2 the funney sequiel to Airplane about a Space Shuttles flight to the Moon that goes haywire and only Ted Striker (Robert Hays) from the frist movie can save it ,funiest seen Willam Shanter haveing a mental brakedown over bliking and flashing lights.Phil might complain about the science but it a comedy. The Alpha incendent, an Andromeda Strain ripoff people are exposed to deadly germs form Mars goverment rushes to find cure.Assingment Outer Space, A reporter covers crisis as Astronuts try to stop a spacecraft surounded by a radition feild from crashing into Earth destroying all life. Good movie and acurate on the science.

  18. Muzz

    Would a Mother Theresa joke be in poor taste?
    (too late?)

  19. Adrock

    It looks like the half alien, half human from Alien Resurrection.

  20. MadScientist

    I bet Axl Rose is wishing he’d thought of that …

  21. Matt B.

    @0 BA – Since botany has come up, and you live in Colorado… I just cut down a strange evil-looking weed in my neighborhood in Centennial. The plant gets about 2 feet tall, with several stalks coming from a central base, has arrowhead-shaped leaves and fruit that is green like the rest of the plant, shaped a bit like the thing in a paisley pattern, about 3-4 inches long with soft 5-mm-long spikes (that’s the evil part). When the fruit dehisces (vocab!) it releases flat brown seeds with wind-catching silk on them, reminiscent of kapok. The plant also bleeds white.

    I felt it was best to cut these two plants down so that they didn’t infest the neighborhood, but I kind of worry that they’re the last of their kind.

  22. James Evans

    I’m no Dr. Phil, but if you get a dozen of these delivered to your office, I’m guessing the relationship is over and it’s time to move on.

  23. James Evans

    Then again, I suppose it’s equally likely you have a new admirer with a pegleg, parrot, and eyepatch.

  24. kat wagner

    @Matt B, did you take some pieces to your local extension agent so he/she can tell you what it is? I’m getting out my Weeds of the West book now because I wanna know what you slaughtered.

  25. kat wagner

    @Matt B – here’s what I found: Labriform milkweed. Asclepiadaceae, milkweed family on page 37 of Weeds of the West. The first graph is pretty much like you said, with non-branching stems, 10 to 24 inches tall, fruits and seeds are also like you said.

    second graph:
    “Labriform milkweed is a native species considered to be the most poisonous of all western milkweeds. As little as one ounce of green leaf material from this species can kill an adult sheep. It is found primarily in mixed desert shrub communities on sandy sites in southwestern Utah, northern Arizona and western Colorado.”

    Non-standard name: Jones milkweed.

    Hope this helps.

  26. sHx

    That’s Christ’s skull, the Lord be praised! Where do I queue up to leave a bunch of flowers?

  27. You beat me to it, just barely, sHx! Except I think it’s the skull of the Virgin Mary.

  28. CR

    @MattB… Did you kill an infant Triffid? (As in ‘Day of the Triffids,’ not the Triffid Nebula.)

  29. sheldonc

    Now I’m going to have to go out and look at all my dying flowers …

  30. Matt B.

    @ kat wagner – Thanks so much. I was hoping someone would geek out and tell me what it was. What’s an extension agent?

    @ CR – Don’t worry, I got the joke. And I got that Triffid before it could cause any trouble. :)

    Ha ha. This post is now the 6th thing that comes up if you search for “labriform milkweed”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what it is. All the pictures show very narrow leaves. I think it’s showy milkweed: It might be A. syriaca, though I never saw any flowers, so it’s hard to tell.

  31. kat wagner

    @Matt B. There were several milkweeds but they’re all nasty. And you really don’t know what an xtension agent is?? Land grant universities have them all over the states, like the University of Idaho has one or more in each county and land plots where they study different varieties of stuff. The agents have specialties, like animals (big and small) or veggies or berries or trees, so you get it. Really? You didn’t know? I took the Master Gardener course one year and a whole bunch of agents came and talked to us.

    You need to go back to where you tore out the milkweed and dig up the roots. (grin).

  32. Matt B.

    @ kat – Hm, I’m not much of a gardener. Maybe you could come over and help. ūüėČ

  33. Leon

    Just in time for International Talk Like A Pirate Day!


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