Rafflesia

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.

(Sources: Feat.ImgIUCN, WWF, Gaia)

Nel

Happily married, bookaholic, Netflix-a-holic sharing random experiences and interpretations of my world which is brutally honest most of the time.

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28 thoughts on “Rafflesia

  1. I find it fascinating that plants can smell so bad. I once grew a small garden variety corpse flower and yes when it bloomed it smelled like rotting flesh, (I know what that smells like). It was so overpowering,and could be smelled for more than ten feet away, I sadly had to bury it in my garden.

    • Wow! That’s pretty intense. I can only imagine what the full size smells like. Where did you get seeds for the garden variety?

  2. Great post! We learned about this flower last year and I was amazed by it’s size, smell, and appearance! I think there are some in Sumatra that are like 3 feet in diameter if I remember correctly? They’re quite amazing, but I wouldn’t want to smell them, haha. Thanks for sharing this, Nel. These posts are very educational. <3

    • Yes! The arnoldi species is the most common one that people identify and it’s spread in Sumatra and Malaysia. I’m glad you enjoyed this post today! I wouldn’t want to smell one either, haha.

    • 😀 Welcome. I don’t need to smell a flower to know what death smells like. Just leave food rotting in the trash for a week. 😉

  3. God created every living thing with a purpose. I wonder about this flower now. The smell, itself, must have a reason. And the shape and colors are also very different. Nice post!

    • I imagine the smell is mainly due to it being parasitic whereas a regular flower is your average chlorophyll, pollen producing plant. It is quite curious. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Every Thursday I feature a new animal or plant that’s endangered to bring about awareness. 🙂 Maybe you’ll stop by again next week 😉

  4. They come in a bulb form like a tulip or daffodil. I found it at a store that had a huge selection of bulb plants. It was 9 years ago. I imagine you can order them online. It was interesting looking but horrifying to smell. Honestly horrific.

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