Did you know there’s a species of plant that smells like a rotting corpse?
The rafflesia (rah-FLEEZ-ee-ah), also known as the meat or corpse flower starts off like a brown, cabbage-like lump, but once it’s in full bloom it’s 3 feet across, and weighs up to 36 pounds!
The Biggest Stinker
The arnoldii species of rafflesia, found in Sumatra, is the biggest known flower in the world. However, the petals on this one aren’t typical. Each blossom has five meat-red, fleshy petals with white or cream coloured spots. These spots look like itchy, raised mosquito bites. If you were to peer deep inside the flower, you would see a round disk with plump spikes poking from it. But hold your nose cause this beauty reeks like rotting flesh.
The Stinky Trickster
Why do you think the rafflesia smells so bad?
a) to scare away animals
b) to attract flies
c) to help spread it’s pollen
If you guessed b and c, you’re right!
Mother fly thinks this big, stinky, mound is a pile of decaying flesh. It should make a good place to lay her eggs, so her larvae can feed on it once they’re hatched. But she’s wrong. The rafflesia is tricking her. As the fly wanders around inside the flower, pollen is getting stuck on its feet and back. When she visits another rafflesia, perhaps one even more stinky, the pollen will be deposited into the new flower. This is how the rafflesia’s reproduce and seeds can now begin to grow. Once the seeds mature, small animals such as squirrels and tree-shrews eat and spread the seeds around the forest floor. These seeds now have a chance to become big, reeking, piles of fleshy petals, too.
For more information on this and other ‘big stinkers’ do some research at your local library or the Internet.