Gone, gone – the form of man – rise, the demon Etrigan ... Of all the things you might associate with demons or the devil, a beautiful flower is probably not high on the list. But a newly discovered orchid is changing all that – and apparently taking an aesthetic cue straight from DC Comics. 

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The devilishly lovely Telipogon diabolicus. Image: Marta Kolanowska 

Known formally as Telipogon diabolicus, the strange flower was found growing on the edge of a small forest in southern Colombia. It gets its name from the distinctly demonic-looking gynostemium, the flower's reproductive structure, located at its centre. 

The team that made the discovery, led by researchers from Poland's University of Gdańsk, observed a group of about 30 specimens, with just a few flowering adults. As such, the species has already been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

"This species is only known from the type specimens, which represent one location in highly vulnerable habitat near the main road Pasto-Mocoa," the team writes in the journal PhytoKeys, adding that a planned reconstruction of the road could cause problems for the orchid's dwindling habitat. 

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Image: Marta Kolanowska

Interestingly, the orchid's devilish allure is not what the researchers describe as its most distinctive feature. Rather, it's the flower's prominently claw-shaped petals. "[To] the best of our knowledge, this character is not found in any other Colombian species of the genus," they say. 

Telipogon diabolicus has now joined a growing family of Columbian orchids that consists of some 3,600 species across 250 genera, and scientists suspect many more are abloom in the region. They hope to make new finds in the coming years. 

"There is no doubt that hundreds of species occurring in this country remain undiscovered." 

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Top header image: M. Kolanowska