What scientist wouldn’t be drawn to try and save the world’s largest flower, especially when it, Rafflesia, is their country’s national flower?
However when you add in the fact that the world’s largest flower is also the world’s foulest, and that its life cycle is unlike any other plant species on Earth, then suddenly the “panda of the plant world” begins to look more like a headache than the remarkable organism it is.
Sofi Mursidawati, a Ph.D. in agriculture at the Bogor Botanical Gardens on the island of Java, is one of the world’s foremost experts on this strange flower, and her efforts to build a body of knowledge that will allow for the cultivation of the ‘corpse flower’ into the future could save it from extinction.
Rafflesia, also known as the corpse flower, or the giant padma, is a parasitic specimen that has no leaves, roots, or stems, but rather only one giant, one meter-long, 20-pound bloom that smells like rotting meat. Found only in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo, its artificial cultivation in the face of habitat loss is problematic, because for more than 70 years of attempts, no botanist has ever successfully created a Rafflesia nursery.
With seeds the size of sawdust grains, pollinated flowers infect a genus of vines called Tetrastygma, before slowly growing over many months into an enormous cabbage-sized bulb. The curiosities don’t end there. In fact, it barely qualifies as a plant.
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