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About
Rafflesia
Q: What is the largest flower in the world?

A: The Rafflesia arnoldii.

The flower with the world's largest bloom is the Rafflesia arnoldii. This rare flower is found in the
rainforests of Indonesia. It can grow to be 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds! It is a parasitic
plant, with no visible leaves, roots, or stem. It attaches itself to a host plant to obtain water and
nutrients. When in bloom, the Rafflesia emits a repulsive odor, similar to that of rotting meat. This
odor attracts insects that pollinate the plant.

Another enormous flower found in Indonesia is the Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan arum. It is also
known as the "corpse flower" for its unpleasant odor. Like the Rafflesia, the Titan emits the smell of
rotting flesh to attract pollinators. Technically, the Titan arum is not a single flower. It is a cluster of
many tiny flowers, called an inflorescence. The Titan arum has the largest unbranched inflorescence
of all flowering plants. The plant can reach heights of 7 to 12 feet and weigh as much as 170 pounds!
Q: Rafflesia (that big huge flower-thing)

A: Repeat after me, "Rafflesia is not a carnivorous plant."

The genus Rafflesia (in the Rafflesiaceae) is a strange one. The most famous species from this group
is certainly Rafflesia arnoldii. It is well known because it bears the world's biggest flower. (There are
some plants with larger flowering organs, Amorphophallus titanum for example, but these are
technically clusters of many flowers. Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest single flower.) I understand the
flower smells very bad.

Rafflesia arnoldii is a kind of parasitic plant (more about that in a few pages) that
parasitizes Tetrastigma vines. It only lives in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo. I do not believe
that anyone has ever succeeded in coercing this plant to flower in cultivation. I do not even know if
anyone has ever grown this parasite with any success at all.

To learn more, plug the word Rafflesia into your favorite web search engine. You will find plenty of
photos. It is one weird plant!
Q: Why is the rafflesia flower endangered?

A: Probably the biggest contributing factor to the endangerment of Rafflesiaceae is habitat loss as a
result of human activity (decreased rainforest as a result of increased urbanization, deforestation,
and pollution).

Many species of rafflesia are very particular about where they thrive. Rafflesia arnoldii (perhaps the
most famous) does not have roots, stems, or leaves of its own. It must rely on the particular species
of tetrastigma vine that lives in the rainforests of Southeastern Asia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,
and the Philippines. If there are not enough of these vines to live in these rainforests, then there
won’t be enough rafflesia blooms (the only parts of the rafflesia you can easily see) to reproduce to a
sufficient degree to maintain the population.

Also, Rafflesia arnoldii are not known to be particularly prolific. They are dioecious (male flowers and
female flowers growing separately) and they typically flower one per plant. Their bud development
time is long (about six to nine months) and the bloom time is comparatively short. This provides for a
very small window of time for the few male and female flowers to cross-pollinate by means of the
very-necessary insects—especially if there are even fewer flowers to cross-pollinate as a result of
habitat loss.