|The Rafflesia arnoldii
Species: Rafflesia arnoldii
There are twenty-six species of Rafflesia:
Keithii, Pricei, Arnoldii, Azlanii, Baletei, Banahawensis, Bengkuluensis, Cantleyi, Gadutensis, Hasseltii, Kerrii, Lobata, Manillana, Micropylora, Mira, Patma, Rochussenii, Schadenbergiana, Speciosa, Tengku-Adlinii, Tuan-Mudae, Borneensis, Ciliata, Titan, and Witkampii. I am focusing on the Rafflesia Arnoldii.
Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr. Joseph Arnold first discovered the Rafflesia Arnoldii during their Jungle Expedition in Sumatra in 1821-22. The flower was named after the two explorers, Raffles and Arnold, soon becoming Rafflesia Arnoldii. Some species were discovered soon after, but some as late as 1988!
The Rafflesia Arnoldii, nicknamed the corpse flower, is the world’s largest solitary flower and is improbable and bizarre. The Raffliesia species are parasite plants and they live on the Tetrastigma vine, which is related to the grape vine. Since the vine lives in primary and secondary rainforests including Indonesia, south East Asia and the Philippines, the Raffliesia does too. The climate in which this plant lives is 24-27 degrees celcius every day and there is 100% chance of rain every night. The Arnoldii lives between 500 and 700 degrees altitude.
The bloom of this plant is a reddish brown colour, can weigh up to 11 kg and can have a diameter of nearly one meter. Its five leathery petals are covered in cream coloured warts. To attract blue bottle flies in order to be pollinated, it smells like rotting meat. A deep hole between the petals is where a central disk supports many vertical spines and below the rim on the disk is where the gender organs are.
The Rafflesia has no leaves, stems or roots, so only the flower is seen. Instead, thread-like strands of tissue, like fungi, are inside its host plant. This flower is in the plant kingdom, not fungi, but it still is a little more different. It has no chlorophyll, so it cannot create energy of its own using the process of photosynthesis, so is steals water and nutrients from the vine.
The plant is fairly hard to locate because there are so few left, so it is even harder to see it in bloom. The buds take a year to mature and they are only in bloom for a week at most. The buds ‘swell like cabbages’ and on rainy nights, they, for whatever reason, burst around midnight.
The Rafflesia species was on the 1997 Red List of Threatened Plants. Although there are many people trying to keep this rare flower alive, there are some problems. Since the rainforests in which they live are getting cut down rapidly, the vine and the Rafflesia Arnoldii are too; they will soon be extinct. It is predicted that when the remaining primary forests of Sumatra and Borneo are burned, the Rafflesia Arnoldii will be extinct.
Also, in order for the plants to reproduce, there must be a plant of the opposite gender blooming at the same time in the area so that the flies can transfer pollen. As you can see, it is very hard to have all three of these at the same time. Only 10-20% of the buds make it into a bloom, so it’s hard enough finding a flower, no to mention two flowers, especially not in the same area AND opposite genders. Even if there is a flower of the opposite gender nearby, there’s no guarantee that it will bloom at the same time as the other flower. If two opposite gender flowers are close to each other and in bloom at the same time, flies won’t necessarily transfer pollen from one to the other.
These rare flowers attract tourists and much attention is being given to them in order to find out how to save these flowers and hopefully have many in the wild. There is a Rafflesia reserved in Mount Kinabalu Nation Park in Sabah on the island of Borneo. At this reserve, it is almost certain to see a flower in bloom.
Specimen of Rafflesia arnoldii at the Kyoto Botanical Garden.
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© Fletcher & Baylis
More information http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/plants_and_algae/Rafflesia_spp/
© Fletcher & Baylis
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Where they can be found
Lets get the facts out of it (Scientific Name: Rafflesia ssp)