Did you know that South East Asia is the home to the worlds’ largest flower? Called The Rafflesia, it grows on the forest floors of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. With its distinctive shape and size, this flower is one of the rarest in the world as well. Indonesia adopted it as the official state flower.
But do not get too close to the flower if you see it. Famous as “the corpse flower” or “the stinking lily”, Rafflesia has a foul odor.
Speaking of its size, the flower can grow up to 90cm in diameter, with the largest recorded at 105cm in diameter. And each flower can weigh up to 22 pounds (close to 10kg).
Let’s talk more about this rare and unique flower.
It was first discovered by French naturalist and adventurer, Louis Dechamps between 1791 and 1794. At the time, Indonesia was called Java. The British seized his notes during his voyage home, which is how they came to know the flower.
The flower got its name after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an adventurer and founder of the British colony of Singapore.
The Rafflesia is the heavyweight champion among blooms. But the flower is very shy and temperamental.
Considered the world’s largest flower, it is a rare, short-term bloomer. Some botanic gardens have yet to succeed in growing their own Rafflesia.
Once a year, the flower grows to a diameter close to 100cmm, with five cabbage-lookalike, leather-textured, dull-red spotted petals.
But it takes up to nine months to spring from seed to pod to flower. The Rafflesia stays in bloom for just a few days, a maximum of one week.
Sadly, nobody can forecast just when the flower will bloom. Some naturalists say after a heavy rainfall. Others say it the month ends in “er”, and then there are those that say it is in July.
Rafflesia is one of the most interesting flowers in the world. The flower withers only after emitting a stench to draw insects. As we said before, it takes about nine months for the flower to bloom. And it will last only a week.
Despite a huge flower, this parasitic plant has no root or stem that grows inside its host. There are 20 species in the world, and we will discuss them later. Malaysia and Indonesia have eight species each.
This flower looks and smells like a corpse. Why is that? Well, at the end of its short cycle, when it is ready to reproduce, the putrid smell lures flies. They help carry the pollen and transfer it to nearby Rafflesia plants. Many describe the smell as rotting flesh.
The smell is due to the reddish tentacle-like inside the corolla of petals. Each mature blossom can produce million seeds, but only about 10% of them will survive.
Like most flowers, The Rafflesia has its family members. In total, there are 28 known species of Rafflesia and 10 species are listed in the largest flower category in the world.
Let’s take a look at some of its family members. For example, Rafflesia cantleyi forms flowers on the aerial parts of its host, making it look different and unique.
Rafflesia hasseltii is another member of the family. Named after its founder Mr. Van Hasselt I Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia, the flower has wound healing properties. If you treat wounds with this flower, they will heal faster.
While most of the Rafflesia flowers are in the world’s largest flower category, there are small ones as well. For example, Rafflesia manillana is the smallest in the genus with a 20cm diameter flowers.
Rafflesia baletei flowers are bisexual. That means they can act as either male or female flowers.
Other Rafflesia flowers are unisexual, which means only one sex.