|Rafflesia arnoldii |
Rafflesia arnoldii (the corpse flower) was designated one of the top ten ugliest flowers by the RHS in 2009
Rafflesia is called "corpse flower" because of its stench. It is the world’s largest single flower, growing to a diameter of around one metre (3 ft).
It has no stems, leaves, or roots; some think it’s related to fungi. The Kew Botanical Gardens website puts it in Class Equisetopsia, related to horsetails, but Wikipedia puts in Malphigiales (a large category including willows and flaxes). They live most of their lives as inconspicuous strands of tissue, parasitic on Tetrastigma vines in the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
The conditions required to initiate growth are unknown. When ready to reproduce the strands develop an inconspicuous bud which over nine months grows to about 12 inches in size resembling a giant blueberry. It then opens to reveal the flower which lasts only a few days. A foul smell of rotting meat attracts flies and beetles. To pollinate successfully, the flies and/or beetles must visit both the male and female plants, in that order. The fruit produced are round lots filled with smooth flesh including many thousands of hard-coated seeds that are eaten and spread by tree shrews.
Due to loss of habitat Rafflesia arnoldii is a threatened species. It is rarely seen due to its inconsistent flowering and is a bucket list item for botanists.
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