The world’s most dangerous plant is said to be the Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the “stinging tree.” One touch from this Australian plant can cause you to suffer months of excruciating pain. Sounds bad, right? But what if I told you there was a plant out there even more dangerous, capable of swinging around a machete like a bad guy in Far Cry or like that dog in Metal Gear (opens in new tab)? Well, it’s true, and it’s art—I hope.
I first learned of the existence of this armed flora thanks to Twitter user canneo2103145 (opens in new tab), who shared this terrifying piece of Aperture Labs-esque art in a series of tweets. The installation is called ‘plant machete (opens in new tab)’ and was created by David Bowen, an artist whose work often fuses nature and mechanical systems using robotics and custom software.
According to Bowen (opens in new tab), the robot arm has a control system that interprets the “electrical noises found in a live philodendron.” This is done through a series of open-source microcontrollers attached to the plant that translate its electrical impulses into movements in the robot arm. And the robot arm is holding a machete.
As you can see from the video, the arm movements go from random and awkward to “oh my god, someone is going to get killed by a philodendron.” This isn’t the first time Bowen decided to arm nature with a human weapon, either. Nine years ago, he created an installation called ‘fly revolver (opens in new tab)’, where a group of flies in a transparent sphere could control and fire a revolver via video-tracking. No, really. A sphere of flies that can shoot a gun.
In his site bio, David says, “These devices and situations create a dissonance that leads to an incalculable changeable situation resulting in unpredictable outcomes.” Though if you give a plant a sword and some flies a gun, I’m pretty sure the outcome isn’t that unpredictable: You’ll either get stabbed or get shot, or be in danger of getting stabbed or shot.