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Keshavi Sharma
27 Years Old Managing Director BA | COPA | CSA | MTA

The Corpse Flower, RAFFLESIA

Everyone has heard of the largest flower in the world in their childhood. Yes, I’m talking about Rafflesia. You’ve heard of it already. But you only heard that it is the largest flower and nothing else. Do you know more interesting facts about this giant creature of the plant family?

The genus Rafflesia belongs to the Rafflesiaceae family of parasitic flowering plants. The blooms of some of the species are gigantic, with buds growing from the ground or directly from the lower stems of the host plants; one species boasts the world’s largest flowers. Rafflesia spends the majority of its existence as a tangle of strand-like cells lying inconspicuously beneath the bark of a woody vine called Tetrastigma. These finally burst into fleshy flowers that smell like rotten meat and grow up to 20 pounds in weight and three feet in diameter.

Why does Rafflesia smell so bad?

So, the question is why do Rafflesia blooms have such a foul odor? It turns out that the disagreeable odor serves a biological purpose: it attracts flies and other insects, which pollinate the plant and allow it to reproduce. The rotten odor is caused by sulfur-containing chemicals such as dimethyl disulfide.

Like its namesake, the sinister bloom despises direct sunlight and thrives in the shade. If ingested, all the parts of the plant are dangerous, and touching it can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. But apart from all this, the buds and blooms are regarded delicacies in Thailand, while the plant is thought to have therapeutic properties in other regions of Southeast Asia. Indigenous people of northern Borneo believe that drinking Rafflesia tea after childbirth will drain the placenta and restore the figure.

Rafflesia Arnoldii

About 28 Rafflesia species are found all across the world, including eight species each in Malaysia and Indonesia. Among all of its species, Rafflesia Arnoldii is the world’s largest flower, measuring one meter (3 feet) in diameter! It only blooms in the Indonesian woods, and each blossom only lasts a few days before withering and dying. Unlike most plants, this African flora does not reach its peak when it blooms into a bright flower. After the blossom has been fertilized, it matures into an edible fruit with 20,000 seeds in each! It is found in the forested mountains of Sumatra and Borneo. Its fully formed blossom is a large fleshy five-lobed structure that weighs up to 11 kg (24 pounds) and measures nearly one meter (about one yard) across.

Life Cycle, Life Span, and Reproduction

The bloom’s life is short 5-7 days, creating a temporal bottleneck in the pollination process. To make matters worse, habitat degradation has fractured present population distributions.  Rafflesia flowers only last 3-5 days on mature plants. Flies attracted to these flowers will accidentally transfer pollen from a male to a female plant during this time. Females produce fruits after conception.

Life Span

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Published on: May 11, 2022
Under the category: Plants, Flowers & Trees (Flora)
By: Keshavi Sharma

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