Rafflesia Arnoldii: The Biggest Flower On Earth

On April 24, 2014 by Tim Newman

Rafflesia arnoldii - biggest flower - two together

What’s the biggest flower on the planet? It’s Rafflesia arnoldii don’t ya know. This rare and impressive bloom finds its home in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo and is one of the three national flowers of Indonesia.

You might like to imagine that a flower of that size would fill an entire forest with a delicious aroma of nectar and honey, but you’d be wrong. It stinks of a decaying body, hence its alternative name of “corpse flower”.

Rafflesia arnoldii is one of 28 species of Rafflesia and was first “discovered” by French explorer Louis Auguste Deschamps (1765-1842). Deschamps’  papers were stolen from him by the British on his return journey from Java (we were at war, as per usual) so his descriptions didn’t get properly looked at until 1954 when the papers were rediscovered at the Natural History Museum in London.

Rafflesia arnoldii - worlds biggest flower - jungle

The flower can grow up to 1 metre across and weigh as much as 11 kg. Rafflesia is a parasite of the Tetrastigma vine and as such produces no leaves, stems or roots, it doesn’t even bother to have chlorophyll; it gets all it needs from its host. In fact, you can only see the plant at all when it flowers and is looking to reproduce.

Rafflesia arnoldii - biggest flower - with man Sumatra

Animal Collection

Rafflesia’s unholy stink attracts flies which pollinate the bloom. The flowers are unisexual which means that a fly has to visit both a male and a female flower to ensure pollination. Because the flowers are fairly few and far between, the gargantuan plants have to hope that their awful aroma attracts the insects in from miles around.

Rafflesia arnoldii - biggest flower - with children Borneo

The dense jungle means that the likelihood of finding a Rafflesia flower, that only lasts for a few days, no matter how large, is pretty sparse. Because of their environment and the fact that they are so tricky to pollinate Rafflesia arnoldii  is an incredibly rare site to see in the wild.

Rafflesia arnoldii - biggest flower - jungle

As the forests gradually dwindle in size these parasitic wonders are presumed to be an endangered species (of course).

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