In September 2021, a video supposedly showing a medicinal plant called oodhu paavai in Tamil blowing pollen out of its funnel-shaped structures went viral on social media:
— Dr Roy Kallivayalil (@RoyKallivayalil) September 26, 2021
This video does not show a medicinal plant called oodhu paavai, a term that means “blow puppet” in the Tamil language, according to Google Translate. This is a computer-generated piece of art.
It was created by Luke Penry, a “3D/Motion Generalist” and “Abstract Nature Artist.” This artwork, entitled “Jungle Pipes,” was posted to Penry’s Instagram page on Sept. 16. Penry noted that the audio in this video was created by @flank_audio and included several hashtags (such as #digitalart #blender3d #motiongraphics and #cinema4d) that clearly indicated that this was a digital piece of art, not a natural plant found in the wild.
Penry has created several other pieces of art showing surreal (and totally fictional) plants. Here’s one posted on Sept. 23 entitled “Branch Bloater.”
Several of Penry’s pieces are available to purchase as NFTs on Foundation.app. In the description of the “Jungle Pipes” piece, Penry notes that the video had caused “much confusion in India,” as the video was widely shared as if it was a genuine plant.
This piece became the source of much confusion in India, when various channels were reposting it as the “Oodhu Paavai – A medicinal plant on the verge of extinction, only growing in dense rainforests, blowing its pollen with sound”
Even members of the IFS (Indian Foreign Service) began sharing this information which caused it to become a mysterious viral video and has resulted in people trying to debunk it and track down its origin online.