Monday, December 29, 2008

The Largest Flower in the world?

The story of what the largest flower in the world is, depends on where one draws the line. If one means a single flower, then the largest flower would be Rafflesia arnoldii, a large red flower that grows in Indonesia. If one considers not single flowers, but includes multiple flower floral structures (an inflorescence), then the largest would be the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum). Both are commonly referred to as the Corpse Flower, because of their odors (which resemble rotting corpses).

Corpse Flower (Rafflesia arnoldii)

R. arnoldii, the largest single flower in the world, found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sulawesi (Indonesia)

The ball of the unfurled flower emerges from the flesh of the Tetrastigma vine, upon which R. arnoldii is a parasite

Rafflesia opens up, it has no roots, nor leaves, nor stems and until flowering, lives only as a thread of plant tissue in the host vine

The inside of the flower, from which a rather pungent odor of rotting flesh emerges, attracting its pollinators, flies.

Even the texture of the flower somewhat resembles putrefying flesh.

If you were a fly, this would look like heaven, kind of.

This is a somewhat rare flower, that depends on a plant that needs relatively undisturbed primary (climax) forest.

Human and Rafflesia, to give some perspective

This smells like my wife.

Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum)

Naturalist and film maker, David Attenborrough regards a recently bloomed Amorphophallus at Kew Gardens in London... not a single flower, but a huge inflorescence (many flowers on one structure). It may reach up to 10 ft in height.

A chart of the life cycle of the Titan Arum, which is found in Sumatra, Indonesia

Growth/Life stages of the Titan,

The name, Amorphophallus titanum means "penis shaped enormous", which is why Attenborrough wouldn't use the name on his tv show, The Private Life of Plants.

Like the Rafflesia, the Amorphophallus emits an odor of rotting flesh, which attracts pollinating flies. The flower also creates heat, which helps with the illusion of freshly dead animal.

Multiple inflorescences emerge from one plant.

The fruit produced by the female flowers on the lower part of the inflorescence , before the flower dies back completely.

After the flower dies back, a huge leaf, the size of a small tree, emerges from the root under the ground. It will die back, and the process of dormancy and then flowering will begin again.

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