Rafflesia is a genus of about 20 species of parasitic flowering plants in the family Rafflesiaceae, native to tropical rain forest areas of Southeast Asia.
Rafflesia is one of the biggest and one of the stinkiest flower in the world. It has five huge leathery petals, with a central disc in the middle surrounded by a diaphragm. This plant is bizarre, spectacular and rare, with no leaves, no roots and no stem. It doesn’t have chlorophyll and therefore is incapable of photosynthesis, causing some to argue that Rafflesia isn’t a flower at all.
The genus name was given in honor of Sir Stamford Raffles (1781-1826), a British statesman and founder of the British colony of Singapore.
Rafflesia is a symbol of death due to its rotten scent and bizarre nature.
It also symbolizes artifice, temptation and trickery. Some species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii exhibit unique methods to attract their pollinators. They release a scent that’s been compared to the odor of rotting flesh to attract flies in order to pollinate.
Interesting facts about Rafflesia
Why is Rafflesia Endangered?
These plants are very rare and almost on the verge of extinction. The main reasons for this are their low reproductive rates and tourism activities that cause destruction of their habitat.
Monster Flower (Rafflesia arnoldii)
Rafflesia arnoldii: The Largest Flower in the World
While the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) bears the largest unbranched inflorescence of all flowering plants, Rafflesia arnoldii has the largest individual flower on Earth.
Rafflesia arnoldii is the heavyweight champion among flowers, holding the title as the largest single blooming flower. It can reach up to 1 m (more than 3 ft) in diameter and weigh up to 11 kg (25 pounds)!
At the end of 2019, Indonesian officials found the world’s largest Rafflesia flower that bloomed at Maninjau Nature Conservation area in West Sumatra, Indonesia, measuring an enormous 111 centimeters (3,64 ft) in diameter.
Parasitic Nature of Rafflesia arnoldii
This species is remarkable for its parasitic nature and is known as the “Queen of all parasitic organisms”.
It attaches itself to a host plant Tetrastigma vine and has a parasitic symbiotic relationship with its host. Rafflesia absorbs water and nutrients from the host plant on which it lives. It grows inside the tissue of the host and extracts nutrients necessary for growth.
Why Does Rafflesia arnoldii Smells Like Decaying Flesh?
Rafflesia is stinky and it smells like rotten flesh. It smells this way to attract its main pollinator – the carrion fly that helps pollinate the plant. These flies lay their eggs thinking it is rotting flesh. They are tricked into thinking they have found a meal and a place to lay their eggs. Actually, they pick up or deposit pollen and pollinate the plant.
The smell is stronger during the early morning hours when these plants have the best chance of attracting their pollinators.
Popularity of Rafflesia arnoldii in Indonesia
Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the three national flowers in Indonesia.
The plant contributes to the ecotourism industry in this country and is used in traditional medicine to stop internal bleeding, as well as to relieve pain during and after childbirth. It is also used as an aphrodisiac and to “restore the female figure” after childbirth.
Rafflesia Plant Data
Rafflesia is reddish brown with white marks on its petals.
Spring, Autumn, Winter, Summer
Rafflesia can reach up to 1 m (more than 3 ft) in diameter.
Rafflesia is a parasitic plant and depends completely upon its host, so it doesn't need any soil. Anyway, it has no roots, leaves or stem.