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Rafflesia - Largest Fleshy Flower

Rafflesia arnoldii is the largest, solitary, fleshy flower in the world. Rafflesia is a parasitic plant that grows on the lower slopes of mountain ranges, in certain areas of South-east Asia. (Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo). The first Europeans to discover the Rafflesia were Sir Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore) and Dr Joseph Arnold in 1816, near the town of Bencoolen (Bengkulu) in Sumatra and this particular species was named Rafflesia arnoldii in their honour.
Besides being the world's largest bloom, it is a very strange and baffling plant. Belonging to the family Rafflesiaceae together with Mitrastemonaceae and Hydnoraceae, they constitute the order Rafflesiales. The Rafflesia has no specific flowering season. It has no roots, stem or leaves. In addition, each flower produces just one seed and this seed can only germinate if it succeeds in lodging itself in the tissue of the Tetrastigma vine, which crawls along the rainforest floors. This is why the Rafflesia is usually floor bound. The flower extracts food from the vine by extending threadlike filaments into its tissue. Its penchant for attaching exclusively to the Tetrastigma partly explains why the flower is very rare.
After taking approximately 9 months to mature into a cabbage-sized bud, the plant opens. The petals, usually 5, sometimes 6, are red in colour and covered with lighter coloured spots. When in full bloom the flower emits a foul odour which attracts flies and other insects. It only flowers for 5 to 6 days, before the petals blacken and the flower withers. The flowers are either male or female. Pollen is most likely transferred from one plant to another by flies, whilst scientists believe that the small mammals that eat the fruit of the plant transfer the seeds (via their droppings, claws and facial hair) to other host sites around the forest floor. Although the Rafflesia can grow up to one metre in diameter, the flowers are usually half that size with the occasional monster-sized bloom appearing from time to time. The record bloom of Rafflesia arnoldii that made its way into the Guiness Book of Records, stretched 91cms (3 ft) in diameter, 1.9 cms (3/4 ins) thick and weighed 7 kgs (15 lbs). Read more about the flowers of Malaysia.

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