Rafflesia may sound rare to some, but not to the locals of South East Asia. This largest known individual flower of the Earth is found only in Malaysia, Sumatra, Java & Kalimantan of Indonesia, southern Thailand, and southern Philippines.
Rafflesia is a parasitic plant without any leaves and hardly any stem. It is just a huge, leathery and speckled five-petaled flower. It smells like a rotting meat, making it known locally as “corpse flower”.
However, there are more things that you might not know about Rafflesia. Scroll down to read another 15 facts about them:-
1. There are 28 known species of Rafflesia, with 10 being the largest flower category in the world.
2. The Rafflesia may be the heavyweight champion among blooms, but it is also extremely shy and temperamental.
3. It was first discovered and named in the Indonesian rainforest in 19 May 1818.
4. It was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an adventurer and founder of British colony of Singapore.
5. Dr. James Arnold, a surgeon-naturalist who was with Sir Thomas during the 1818 expedition, was remembered in the species name: Rafflesia arnoldii (refer picture above).
6. It attaches itself to a host plant, Tetrastigma vine, which grows only in the undisturbed rainforests, to obtain water and nutrients.
7. It takes 18 months for tissue within the vine to become a small brown bud. The bud then takes 6-9 months to mature into the size of a cabbage. The brown leaves of the cabbage-like bud then start to open for another few hours. That’s a total of roughly 27 months! Equals to 2 years and 3 months.
8. The flower stays open only for 5-7 days.
9. The rotten smell of the flower is due to the reddish tentacle-like inside the corolla of petals.
10. Each mature blossom of Rafflesia can produce millions seeds, but only 10-20 percent will continue to survive. For this plant to germinate, the seed must find its way to the host vine.
11. Rafflesia was thought to be pollinated by elephant but in fact, it is pollinated by the Calliphora vicina and Lucilia caesar, commonly known as blowfly. These two species are parasites to the elephant.
12. Rafflesia cantleyi forms flowers on the aerial parts of its host and hence looks different and interesting.
13. Rafflesia hasseltii is a species named after its founder Mr Van Hasselt I Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia that found to have wound healing properties. Wounds treated with the extract of this Rafflesia healed faster than the ones that did not have the extract.
14. Rafflesia manillana, the smallest species in the genus Rafflesia has 20 cm diameter flowers. [Refer below for picture of Rafflesia manillana; [Source: parasiticplants.siu.edu]}
15. Rafllesia baletei flowers are bisexual, the others are unisexual.
The existence of this flower is special for the locals in Southeastern Asia as it blooms just at their backyards. Conserving the nature would definitely help this endangered species to continue its existence in this Earth.
Remember, it is a collective effort not individuals. Simplest rule would be not to pluck their buds and flowers. Also to be careful while trekking along the jungle canopy so that you would not step on these flowers.