Rafflesia is the largest flower in the world. It grows to 3 feet (1 m) across and weighs as much as 24 pounds (11 kg). Rafflesia is not only the largest flower in the world, but it is also one of the stinkiest. When in bloom, Rafflesia smells like rotting meat and has been nicknamed the “corpse flower.”
Rafflesia grows in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. It is a parasitic plant that has no leaves, roots, or stem. It attaches itself to a host plant to obtain water and nutrients.
Rafflesia is reddish-brown colored with blister-like white spots. It is thick and fleshy and has five lobes or flower petals. In the middle of the flower, there is a deep cup or well with vertical spikes pointing up. The sexual organs of the plant–the stigma or stamen–lie at the bottom of the well. A rafflesia plant is either male or female and relies on insects to carry pollen from a male to a female in order to reproduce. Both flowers are needed for successful pollination.
Rafflesia blooms for five to seven days and smells like rotting flesh. The rancid smell attracts beetles and carrion flies which in turn carry pollen from male flowers to female flowers and so pollination occurs. The fruit of a pollinated Rafflesia is a berry that contains very small sticky seeds. Fruit-eating rodents carry the seeds around the forest.
Rafflesia seeds dropped near the root or stem of a host plant take nearly a year to grow. A dark brown bud as large as a cabbage grows and eventually opens to reveal the flower. The stigmas or stamens are attached to a disk in the cup of the flower and the foul smell of rotting meat again attracts flies and beetles.
The complete botanical name of Rafflesia is Rafflesia arnoldii. While Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest individual flower on Earth there are other plants with larger flowering organs. The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) and talipot palm ( Corypha umbraculifera), are larger than Rafflesia arnoldii but they are not individual flowers; they are clusters of many flowers.