Flower World's Largest Bloom: Rafflesia
When we say flower, we usually think of them as something colorful, aromatic, small, and beautiful, but did you know there is a flower opposite to that?
The Rafflesia is not only known as the biggest flower in the world but is also famous for its rotten flesh-like smell. This flower is quite rare, but fortunately, a number of its species are in the Philippines!
On this week's "how and why", we will learn more about this rare plant and its discovery here in the Philippines.
What a Rafflesia is?
The Rafflesia is the largest known individual flower in the world.
It only grows five petals and does not have leaves, roots, or stems because this parasitic flowering plant depends solely on its host.
Unlike most plants that need the sun for photosynthesis, this flower is incapable of photosynthesis at all. The Rafflesia inserts its appendages into the tissue of its host vine, where it extracts water and nutrients to grow and sustain life.
The buds of these flowers are hard to detect, especially in dark forests where they thrive. The bud looks like a black or dark brown cabbage on the ground, making it almost invisible compared to other plants.
It takes about a year for it to grow and bloom to its characteristic red-orange color with little white spots as if to look like exposed flesh. Once it blooms, it emits a foul smelling odor and starts to rot.
The blooming phase only lasts for five to seven days.
How Big can be the Rafflesia?
The Rafflesia can grow up to more than 1 meter (around 3 feet). The biggest recorded Rafflesia is the species Rafflesia Arnoldii, which was 106.7 centimeters (3 feet and 7 inches) wide, 11 kilograms (24 pounds) in weight and have petals 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) thick.
Rafflesias are endemic in countries of Southeast Asia, mainly in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Because of its uniqueness and rarity, the Rafflesia is Indonesia's official state flower.
R. Arnoldii is found there and is commonly known as "pupsa langka" or rare flower.
In the Philippines, the Rafflesia can be found all over the country. It is even a celebrated flower in Antique Province.
Why does Refflesia smell so bad?
Rafflesia secretes a terrible odor to attract their primary pollinators. Unlike most flowers that rely on bees and butterflies to pollinate, Rafflesia attracts flies to do the job. Because of its unpleasant smell, Rafflesia is often called, "corpse flower" or "meat flower".
Once the flower blooms and is ready for pollination, it emits a foul smell like rotten meat or rotten fish as most would describe to attract flies and pollinate the flower.
Most species of the Rafflesia are unisexual or bisexual, which means they are either female or male or both. Proximity and blossom moments are the most important for these flowers to distribute.
Because a mature Rafflesia only lasts for five to seven days after blooming, it has to cross-pollinate with a nearby flower of the opposite sex which can sometimes be difficult considering that it is rare.
The largest flower is also in the Philippines!
Out of 28 species, 10 Rafflesia species are found here, in the Philippines.
The first Rafflesia was discovered by naturalist Alexander Shadenberg, who found it in 1882 at the foothills of Mount Apo.
Rafflesia Schadenbergiana, known locally as "kolon busaw" or "bo-o," is the second largest Rafflesia after R. Arnoldii. Other species of Rafflesia are found in Laguna, Quezon, Antique, Iloilo, South Cotabato, Compostela Valley, Kalinga, Quirino, and the Bicol region.
In the Antique Province, the Rafflesia flower is celebrated during the Binirayan Festival, a month-long festival every December where they commemorate Antique's rich culture and history. Since its discovery in 2002, the flower has become Antique's one of its many treasured attraction.
Just recently, the smallest species of the Rafflesia was found in Nueva Ecija, Philippines, last 2016. Rafflesia Consueloae was found by a team of biologists from the University of the Philippines - Diliman, when a field assistant accidentally kicked over a pile of forest litter, uncovering the decayed flower.
When in full bloom, R. Consueloae is about 10 cm wide, like the size of a baseball. According to the researchers, R. Consueloae smells like young coconut flesh, entirely different than the usual putrid smell of its kind.
How rare this big flower is?
The Rafflesia only grow and thrive in humid and dark rainforests. Even when a number is found in the Philippines, research for the Rafflesia is low because they are hard to access. Most species were discovered by accident. They don't grow in batches either, and their population highly relies on the number of healthy vines present in the area.
The Rafflesia is also a sensitive and extremely shy plant. No one has succeeded in cultivating it in a laboratory or a garden, but some countries are already conducting research and even introducing new laws to protect them.
Even if they are hard to find, this plant is already vulnerable to extinction. Aside from their rarity, other factors can lead them to the decline in population such as natural forest fires, deforestation and frequent tourist visits.
Inevitable forest fires during the dry season and deforestation destroy the vines that these flowers get their nutrients. Growing buds may not successfully reach maturity when the supply of nutrients from the host is cut off.
Frequent tourist visits may also harm the natural process of a developing bud, especially when the visitors are not mindful of where they walk. As stated, the buds of this flower are difficult to spot because they are dark in color. When tourists are not careful, the buds of a nearby fully-bloomed Rafflesia plant may get stepped or trampled on.
The best way to conserve the Rafflesia is to protect their habitat and to let them grow in their natural environment. Let us do our part in the conservation of the biggest bloom and one of the rarest flowers in the world by being responsible and mindful tourists when visiting the famous Rafflesia plant.
The World's Largest Flower Rafflesia Researches and References
If you want to know more about the world's largest flower, take a look at our references below.
Below are few links we have used as references, images we used are from wikipedia and wikimedia.
- Rafflesia Flower
- Wikipedia Rafflesia
- 15 things to know about Rafflesia
- Science Refflesia
- Top 10 Best Places Species
- World's Largest Flower
- Biggest Flower in the Philippines
- Smallest of the Biggest Flower in the Philippines
- Breaking News: The Smallest of the Largest Flower
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Thanks for reading, and if you wish, see you next week!
The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.