The Biggest Flower in The World

COME with me, Sir, come, a flower, very large, beautiful, wonderful, said Joseph Arnold’s excited guide during a plant-collecting expedition on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. On following his guide, Arnold, a British botanist, saw something he termed “truly astonishing.” He had discovered what would be the world’s largest flower.

There are many species of Rafflesia in Southeast Asia. The Indonesia’s Rafflesia arnoldii holds the record of being the largest flower in the world and has kept that record since 1818 when it was discovered by the British botanist Joseph Arnold and his expedition partner, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who was founder and governor of Singapore. You can now see how the flower came about its name.

Now, hold on. Before you consider getting one as a surprise gift for a loved one, you would want to know more about this spectacular flower.

The flower grows to a size of 1m (3ft) in diameter – the diameter of a bus tire and weighs as much as 11kg. Definitely not appropriate for a bouquet. The flower has five pinkish brown petals with pale water-like spots on it. The arrangement of the petals is such that they form a large hollow cavity that resembles a pot. This hollow can hold up to 6 litres of water.

The Rafflesia arnoldii has been given many names. Names like corpse flower and stinking corpse lily have been coined for this flower. No thanks to its strong bad odour. The Rafflesia smells like dead flesh in an advanced state of decomposition.

The flower’s odd beauty is short-lived, though. After just a few days, the bloom dies and begins to rot, leaving behind a slimy black mass.

The Rafflesia arnoldii is rare and almost going extinct. Why? Male and female flowers must reach maturity and must be close to each other to cross-pollinate, yet most never reach maturity or bloom. The reason for this is that many buds are harvested to be used in traditional medicine or to be eaten as a delicacy. This has greatly reduced the number of plants growing in the wild. Ongoing destruction of the flower’s tropical rain-forest habitat poses another serious threat.

Many people cherish the opportunity to see the biggest flower in the world and others long for a chance. It’s magnificence is impressive. The odour oozing from it leaves a lasting impression. The colour patterns are remarkably beautiful. However, it certainly would not make it to your bouquet collection. Or maybe.

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