Today’s endangered species is focused on the biggest flower in the world: Rafflesia magnifica aka the meat flower. Now before you say, “I could have sworn I saw this flower in a botanical gardens!”, I assure you, you’re wrong. This particular species is only found in one location in the world. That’s right, if you don’t already live in the Phillipines, you’d have to hop on a plane and fly to the Mt. Candalaga mountain range in Compostela Valley to see the few of these that are left. Although this species is only found in such a small area, all species of Rafflesia are listed as vulnerable or endangered in some form or another.
What makes Rafflesia so unique is that they look like your average flower but have very distinctive differences. Rafflesia do not have stems, roots, or leaves. Your average flower has a system right? The roots pull nutrients and water from the Earth, up through their roots where it then gets turned into chlorophyll, glucose and other compounds a flower needs to grow strong and have vibrant colors. It also pulls energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Rafflesia don’t do any of that. Even though their coloring is brilliantly vibrant, it’s not due to the sun or nutrients from the Earth. Rafflesia are actually parasitic plants and the only way for them to grow is from leeching off one particular host. The only host that can create a Rafflesia flower is the Tetrastigma vine. The Rafflesia spreads its root like tentacle things under the tissue of the Tetrastigma vine and absorbs the sap until it matures. It literally starts out as a piece of tissue and is completely dependent on this grapevine relative in order to grow into a flower. The flower itself is characterized by its five-petalled formation, that can grow to be 5 inches or more in diameter, and also by it’s smell. Rafflesia do not smell like roses, let me tell you. They are called the meat flower for a reason. If you want to smell death, just walk up to a Rafflesia. They smell like rotting corpses.
Rafflesia magnifica are listed on the IUCN list as critically endangered. This particular species was discovered in 2005 and was listed as critically endangered in 2008. The major threat to the species is habitat loss to banana plantations. Scientists who went out to survey the area found a few clusters of Rafflesia magnifica but were only able to record males of the population. Not much has been recorded about their reproduction or life cycles because people can only recognize them when/if they bloom. Another threat to the species is ethnobotanical and illegal collecting. Ethnobotanical collecting is when humans collect plant species in order to study it’s uses to the local culture. Sadly, no conversation efforts have been put into place for this species. Maybe through spreading more awareness will the plight of this species come to light.