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14 Unbelievable Optical Illusions in Nature

 Nature always has a few tricks up her sleeve and never stops surprising us with all of her fascinating creations. At times, these natural occurrences are so incredible and unlikely to exist, we have to rub our eyes in disbelief not once, but twice, before we finally believe that what we see is true. In this article, we’ve compiled 14 of these mind-bending illusions one could only encounter in nature.

1. Undulatus Asperatus

natural optical illusions Undulatus asperatus
Image Source and Cover Image: Witta Priester/ YhCHKN/ Reddit
This beautiful but simultaneously ominous sky display looks like sheets of crumpled fabric stretched above the sky. The natural phenomenon is called 'Undulatus Asperatus', or simply Asperitas, and it's a type of cloud especially common after thunderstorms in the Plains states in the US.
Despite their threatening appearance, these clouds usually dissipate without causing a storm. Interestingly, asperitus clouds are the latest cloud formations described in meteorology: they have been added to the International Cloud Atlas only in 2017.

2. Jacob's Well Natural Area, Texas Hill Country, US

natural optical illusions Jacob's Well
No, these two kids aren't plunging into an abyss, or the edge of a tall cliff, they just want to take a swim in Jacob's Well spring. As you can see, the stream bed features a narrow underwater passage, and since the water in the spring is rather clean, it's possible to see how deep it goes. This passage is about 9 meters (30 feet) in depth, and it then extends into two main cave chambers stretching through hundreds of meters.

3. Rakotzbrücke Devil's Bridge, Kromlau, Germany

natural optical illusions Rakotzbrücke Devil's Bridge
This intricately-made bridge reaches across one of the many picturesque ponds in the Azalea and Rhododendron Park near the German village of Kromlau. Together with its reflection in the water, the bridge creates an illusion of a full stone circle (from the right perspective, of course).
The bridge was commissioned in 1860, and it's known as the 'devil's bridge' because its architecture was considered so unbelievably complex at the time that the common folk thought only satan could have created something like it.

4. Glen Canyon, Utah, US

natural optical illusions Glen Canyon
Don't trust your eyes with this one either, as it doesn't depict a man walking at the edge of a cliff at all. Instead, the photographer managed to capture the reflection of a cliff in water, which creates the optical illusion. Fun fact: Glen Canyon is located very close to another mind-boggling natural area we've covered in a previous article - Vermilion Cliffs, a strange wave-like rock formation tourists love.

5. The Butterfly That Looks Just Like a Leaf

natural optical illusions Gonepteryx rhamni
The common brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) is known for its incredible ability to mimic a leaf. Even from up close, its wings are practically indistinguishable from a green leaf. This interesting butterfly lives across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and it uses its protective coloring to hide from predators - birds and wasps.

6. "3D" Farmland in Eastern Colorado

natural optical illusions "3D" Farmland in Eastern Colorado
Image Source: eskimonoise/ Imgur
If you ever fly across the farmlands of Eastern Colorado in the wintertime, don't be surprised to witness the three-dimensional view from above. The different sections of land, though completely flat, seem like they're situated on different levels. As a matter of fact, this landscape has an eerie resemblance to a paved bumpy road.

7. Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California, US

natural optical illusions horsetail falls
Is it lava flowing down this mountain? Not at all, it's just a waterfall illuminated by the sunset. Every year, in mid-February, the sunset aligns perfectly, shining straight at the waters of Horsetail Fall at Yosemite National Park and turning the waterfall a flaming orange color. 

8. Roll Cloud

natural optical illusions Roll Cloud
These long tube-shaped clouds just don't look like something that could exist naturally, and yet, they do occur in many coastal regions across the globe - California, the English Channel, Nome (Alaska), Shetland Islands and the North Sea coast. But the place where these roll clouds, also known as 'volutus', occurs the most frequently is near Queensland, Australia, where they are affectionately named 'the Morning Glory cloud'.

9. "Floating Water Droplets"

natural optical illusions spiderweb dew
Image Source: tillwalley/ Reddit
Is this a closeup shot of water at zero gravity, or are the water droplets suspended in the air as a result of some other natural phenomenon? As a matter of fact, this beautiful display is the work of a spider, as it's just a photo of a really fine spider web covered by morning dew. What a rare and beautiful sight!

10. Apache Head, Ebihens, France

natural optical illusions Apache head
There are countless natural rock formations that resemble faces or animals, but this specific rock caught my eye, as the serious, strong profile combined with grass resembling hair looks as if it was alive. Honestly, this rock looks so anthropomorphic, it would be hardly surprising to watch it come to life.

11. Monkey Face Orchid

natural optical illusions Monkey Face Orchid
Speaking of seeing faces where there are none, take a close look at this beautiful orchid variety called the Monkey Face Orchid (Dracula simia). Can you distinguish the facial features of a monkey in this peculiar looking flower? We can even see the fluffy eyebrows, and it's somehow very adorable.

12. Alpenglow

natural optical illusions Alpenglow
Alpenglow is a fascinating optical phenomenon, a glow of warm orange or pink light surrounding an object created by the setting or rising sun. It's most visible in the mountains, for which is it got its name, but it can essentially be observed around most objects, such as clouds or even buildings, for example.

13. Desert in Baja California, Mexico

natural optical illusions desert in Baja California, Mexico
Image Source: spicedpumpkins/ Reddit
What looks just like a pretty drawing of tree branches is actually an aerial view of the desert in Baja California, Mexico. In this photo, you see a river spreading across the barren, snow-covered desert land.

14. "Fire Tornado"

natural optical illusions fire tornado
What looks like a horrifying fire tornado stretching through the sky is nothing but a clever optical illusion, and luckily, not another terrible natural cataclysm we should all start worrying about. The photo is, in fact, the image of a riverbed and the reflection of the surrounding forest in the water.
The image features the famous Rio Tinto river in Huelva, Spain, which gets its fiery red and orange hue from dissolved iron deposits in the water, creating a very unusual looking landscape. See more images of Rio Tinto and other alien-looking landscapes by following this link.
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