Giant Rafflesia: the Corpse Flower

What strange gigantic flower is here
That shows its lonesome pallid face
Where neither stems nor leaves appear

J. Hunt Cooke

The rare giant rafflesia grows only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.  

Rafflesia arnoldii

The biggest single flower in the world, it belongs to a parasitic plant which is usually totally hidden from view inside the host, the only visible part being the flower.  As the poem above describes, there are no leaves or stems, nor true roots.

The flowers do not bloom for long so we were lucky to find one fully open.  The flower that we saw was about 50cm (almost 20in) wide and they can grow to be a metre (38in) in diameter.

Rafflesia buds and decayed flowers

The photo above shows the various stages of the flower; the tiny buds will open into the full flower and the black patches on the ground are old, decayed blooms.

A view into the centre of the flower

The rafflesia is known as the corpse flower because of the stench of rotting flesh that it gives off in order to attract the carrion flies which pollinate it.  They fly into its gaping maw and receive pollen on their backs when they crawl under the central disc.  Surely it cannot be a coincidence that the thick, brownish-red petals look like decomposing flesh as well as smelling like it.

They are a rather alien, unsettling sight, but strangely beautiful nonetheless.


0 thoughts on “Giant Rafflesia: the Corpse Flower

  1. Vicky says:

    How lucky to find one. It’s quite ugly, I hear the smell is terrible, but lovely photos to share on this challenge, a perfect take on the Rare theme!

    • kidsandcompass says:

      I was really pleased that there was one open when we visited. They really do smell awful.
      The locals keep an eye out for any rafflesia buds and protect them so tourists can see them.
      I’m glad you liked the photos!

    • kidsandcompass says:

      Lucky you! Thanks for the link, that was really interesting. The titanum are amazing too aren’t they? I saw some at the Eden Project in Cornwall but they were nowhere near ready to bloom.

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