Smelly Philippine Flower is Largest in World

by Diane - Date: 2007-03-07 - Word Count: 477 Share This!

The odds are good that you may have never heard of the Philippine flower known as rafflesia, a flower that ranks high above all and sundry in the plant world. It is literally just flower - without stems, branches, or leaves - and can grow to the size of a car tire. The odor - that's right, odor, not scent, not aroma, odor - of this Philippine flower can be downright offensive. But for many, the rafflesia is a truly fascinating flower that deserves its rightful place in the pantheon of exotic Philippine flora.

More than twenty species of rafflesia exist all over Southeast Asia, with two Philippine flower rafflesias in particular growing in the Philippines, the rafflesia manillana, which may be found in Luzon, and the recently discovered rafflesia novum in Antique.

The rafflesia manillana is a prominent Philippine flower scattered all over Luzon, but dense growths of this Philippine flower have been found in mountainous areas, specifically Mount Makiling in Laguna province and Mount Isarog in Bicol province.

Meanwhile, the rafflesia novum in Antique was only recently confirmed as a separate Philippine flower from other rafflesias species. Long-familiar to residents of local Philippine towns Sibalom and San Remegio, the rafflesia novum - known to townsfolk as uroy - was the subject of quite a stir when scientists declared this Philippine flower a totally different species from the other rafflesias species in 2002. The Sibalom Natural Park moved speedily to promote this Philippine flower as its main attraction.

What most people don't know about the rafflesia is that it is actually a parasite. This Philippine flower grows within its host, usually a tetrastrigma vine, showing no signs of existence other than a bunch of fibers on the vine itself. When the flower is ready to show, outgrowths appear on the vine until cabbage-like buds begin to grow. When the open flower blooms, this Philippine flower then bears fruit, releasing its trademark stench to attract certain flies to pollinate it.

One of the difficulties that come with trying to breed this Philippine flower is its notorious difficulty for cultivation. It can take up to ten months, on average, for the rafflesia to bloom, and not all the buds that appear will eventually bloom. A good percentage of rafflesia buds decay before opening, thanks to excessive or not enough rain. This hermaphroditic Philippine flower has few female flowers, and since the flowering time is rare, few rafflesias end up fertilized.

The stench of the rafflesia is what serves to pollinate this Philippine flower. A male flower must be nearby, also in bloom, and chanced upon by a fly or similar insect before pollination can begin. If the female of this Philippine flower is pollinated, fruits will be buried near its base, where insects, forest rats, or other animals will pick it up by accident and transfer it to the right vine.
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