Rafflesia arnoldii (Rafflesia, Corpse Flower)

These oddities are native to Indonesia, where deforestation has threatened their existance. Despite being plants, they do not photosynthesize, have no roots, have no leaves, and don’t at all seem like plants (aside from their large red flowers). Furthermore, they have their largest single flowers of any organism known to date. This plant has remained an elusive mystery for almost 200 years and may very well continue to evade thorough research, unfortunately. Hopefully more information will become available in the near future.

Rafflesia arnoldii (Rafflesia, Corpse Flower)
Deciduous: No, it lacks leaves.
Hardiness Zones: native to zone 13 (supposedly)
Height: not sufficiently researched (I have yet to find any sources explicitly stating its height. My educated guess is around one foot tall.)
Diameter: The flowers reach almost 1 meter in length
Growth Rate: largely unknown
Age: perennial?
Root System: none
Family: Rafflesiaceae
Subspecies: var. ‘atjehensis’, var. ‘arnoldii’

Tolerates: not sufficiently understood, other than conditions inside Tetrastigma vines
Problems (major): Badly damages host plants. Reproduction is mostly unsuccessful. The flowers smell (literally) like death.
Problems (minor): Issues tend to be major.
Poisonous: The buds and flowers contain toxins, such as tannins, that can be fatal in large quantities.

Soil requirements: none
Air Requirements: no requirements, native to typically humid environments
Watering requirement: whatever happens to be inside Tetrastigma vines
Sun requirement: never requires sunlight

Leaves: none
Roots: none
Flowering structure/inflorescence: Their massive flowers almost grow one meter in diameter! The flowers are either male or female. They are also primarily red-colored, with tanish-white freckles. The flowers smell like rotting carcasses, attracting their primary pollinator, flies. The center protrusions may help radiate heat, spreading the odor to further attract insects. Despite all of this, pollination has low success rates, as the flowers are fully open for less than a week on average. These five-petaled flowers burst through their hosts’ bark for a very short period of time.
Photosynthesis?: Members of Rafflesiaceae do not photosynthesize. Yes, this confuses everyone.
Method of parasitism: Lives inside Tetrastigma vines, bursts out to flower. These uses haustorium (essentially parasitic drinking straws) to absorb nutrients from their host.
Common hosts: Tetrastigma vines

Notable characteristics:
This extremely odd plant is dioecious, having separate “imperfect” male and female flowers. The flowers are very complex, but their rarity inhibits our ability to successfully study them. On an off note, R. arnoldii inspired the creation of Vileplume, a Pokemon. It has been featured in other games as well.

Uses:
Rarely used as very questionable medicine, never professionally. MAYBE as a specimen plant but good luck finding one and getting one to grow.

Sources used:

Rafflesia_arnoldii_3 A fully opened flower with three buds nearby (photo uploaded on 2009-04-05)

 Rafflesia_arnoldii_1 A fully opened flower with two buds close by (photo uploaded on March 2007)

 

Rafflesia_arnoldii_2 A dead flower which did not decompose being preserved at the Kyoto Botanical Garden (photo uploaded on 11 December 2005)

I do not own the rights of these images; all credit goes to its original creator(s).

Rafflesia_arnoldii_image_sources

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