Rafflesia arnoldii (corpse flower): The World’s Largest Bloom

A rare, parasitic, rootless and leafless plant, Rafflesia arnoldii has the largest known flower in the world. This southeast Asian plant has the largest known individual flower in the world. It is parasitic on members of the genus Tetrastigma (in the grape family, Vitaceae). It has no roots or leaves and most of the time lives unobserved inside the woody stems and roots of its host. It only becomes visible when its plump buds emerge through the bark of its host and develop into the large, fleshy flowers which are pollinated by carrion-flies.

The flowers are up to 1 m in diameter, and their flesh is reddish-brown with white spots. Each flower is either male or female and consists of five lobes inserted on a cup-like structure. In the centre of the cup is a column with a disk. The anthers (male parts) or styles (female parts) are situated underneath the disk. The fruits are berries with minute seeds. It is likely that only damaged roots or stems of a new host can be infected by seedlings of Rafflesia. The foetid smell of the flowers attracts carrion-flies which belong to the genera Lucilia and Sarcophaga. The flower buds are applied in traditional medicine to promote delivery and recovery during and after childbirth. They are also used as an aphrodisiac. It is likely that these uses are associated with the shape, colour and size of the buds, and superstitions surrounding the flower, rather than being linked to any chemical properties.

By:- Miss Madhuri Rawat
Department of Forestry
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College of Biomedical Sciences and Hospital