The Rafflesia arnoldi, also known as the Corpse Flower, is the largest, heaviest, rarest and among the foulest smelling blooms in the world.
Its moniker derives from the founder of the British colony of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, and Dr. James Arnold, both of whom conducted an expedition to the Indonesian rainforests in 1818.
These parasitic flowering plants produce the largest individual flowers on earth, weighing as much as 10 kg (22 pounds) when in full bloom and reaching a diameter of up to 1 meter (about 3 feet).
Two such flowers are in bloom at the Taba Penanjung natural sanctuary in Central Bengkulu District, Bengkulu Province, Indonesia. Located only about 30 feet from each other, the flowers are blooming simultaneously, which is a rare occurrence.
The two giant flowers were found around 350 feet from a road linking Bengkulu city and Kepahiang district.
These parasitic plants have no leaves or stems, but have roots that become embedded deep inside the tissues of the host plant. The plant becomes visible to the naked eye only when the buds appear on the vine. They require nine to twelve months to develop first to the size of a large cabbage, and then into Rafflesia flowers.
Oddly, this natural process occurs at around midnight during rainy seasons.
Its traditional stink, resembling rotten flesh, is like perfume to the insect world, attracting pollinators such as bees, flies and other insects. Despite this, only 20 to 30% of the buds develop to flowers.
It is also very rare to find male and female flowers blooming simultaneously.
Rafflesia flowers are red with five rough, speckled petals. The center contains a well-like structure containing a raised disc with many vertical spines. The sexual organs of the male and female flowers are situated beneath the central disc.
The primary and secondary rainforests of Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, southern Thailand, Borneo and southern Philippines are considered the natural habitat for this highly unusual, malodorous bloom. Due to the growth of industry (particularly coffee plantations), the forest areas are shrinking and scientists are urging the government to preserve the habitat of the Rafflesia arnoldi.
The wonders of nature, smelly and otherwise, continue to surprise us every day.