There’s something special called the Rafflesia

The name “Rafflesia” may sound exotic to some, but not to the locals residents of South East Asia region. This largest known individual flower of the Earth is found only in Malaysia, Sumatra, Java & Kalimantan of Indonesia, southern Thailand, and southern Philippines.

The Rafflesia flower is known for being huge, leathery and speckled five-petaled flower. It has a smell like rotten meat making it known locally as “corpse flower”.

Explanation on Rafflesia in Kampung Begu with Backyard Tour Malaysia

There are more things that you might not know about the Rafflesia flower. Scroll down for an intriguing read of another 15 facts about them:-

The discovery

1. The Rafflesia flower was first discovered by French naturalist and adventure, Louis Dechamps in then Java (present day Indonesia) between 1791-1794 before his notes were seized by the British during his voyage home.

2. It was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an adventurer and founder of British colony of Singapore.

3. Dr.  James Arnold, a surgeon-naturalist who was with Sir Thomas during the 1818 expedition, was remembered in the species name: Rafflesia arnoldii.

Raffles, Sir Stamford [Credit Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London] Saved from with Backyard Tour Malaysia

The Rafflesia family members

4. There are 28 known species of Rafflesia and 10 species are listed in the largest flower category in the world.

​​5. ​Rafflesia cantleyi forms flowers on the aerial parts of its host and hence looks different and interesting. ​

Rafflesia cantleyi [Source] with Backyard Tour Malaysia

6. 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. ​

Rafflesia hasseltii Source Kerinci Seblat National Park with Backyard Tour Malaysia

7. Rafflesia manillana, is the smallest species in the Rafflesia genus. It has 20 cm-diameter flowers and bucks the trend of Rafflesia flowers generally being quite large.

8.Rafllesia baletei flowers are bisexual, meaning that they can act as either male or female flowers. Other Rafflesia flowers on the other hand are unisexual, meaning only one sex.

Rafflesia baletei [Source] with Backyard Tour Malaysia

Some interesting characteristics of the Rafflesia flower

9. The Rafflesia may be the heavyweight champion among blooms. However, it is also extremely shy and temperamental. Any slight disturbances to a known Rafflesia flower site could cause pollination in that area to cease or affect the chances of buds to bloom.

10. The huge Rafflesia flower doesn’t in fact have its own roots or stems. Instead, it attaches itself to a host plant, Tetrastigma vine, which grows only in the undisturbed rain forests to obtain water and nutrients.

11. 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. Then. the brown leaves of the cabbage-like bud starts to open for another few hours. That’s a total of roughly 27 months! Equals to 2 years and 3 months.

12. The flower stays open only for 5-7 days.

13. The rotten smell of the flower is due to the reddish tentacle-like inside the corolla of petals.

14. 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.

15. 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.

Do your part in Conserving Rafflesia

The existence of this Rafflesia flower is special for the locals in Southeastern Asia as it blooms just at the vicinity of their backyards. We should consider conserving the nature to 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.

Some options

If you are in Kuching, Sarawak and keen to see the Rafflesia flower with your own eyes, do contact us . Gunung Gading National Park is well known with the flower budding abundantly within the care of Sarawak Forestry so you can visit their FB page for updated information before planning on visiting. As Rafflesia flower only blooms for short time (as we have learned previously), it really depends on your luck to be able to witness the flower blooming.

If you want to see the flower while also supporting local villagers within rural community, why not join us on a bundle trip where you will also get to visit village farm and their secluded waterfall trekking. You will surely enjoy it!


Published Date: Aug 20, 2016