The Rafflesia, a parasitic plant, lives only on the tetrastigma vine in the jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. According to the Library of Congress, it produces the world's largest flower, which measures up to 3 feet (90 cm) across and weighs 15 pounds (6.8 kg). Approximately 17 species of Rafflesia exist. It produces no roots, stems, or leaves.
Nutrients and Water
The Rafflesia grows within its host plant by sending out tiny threadlike filaments that twine into the very cells of the host. The Rafflesia gains all the nutrients and water required for survival from the threadlike filaments. However, even though Rafflesia is considered a plant, it does not produce chlorophyll, which renders it incapable of receiving nutrients through photosynthesis as other plants do.
Damage and Life
The plant spends most of its life embedded within its host with no visible parts to the naked eye on the outer part of the plant until the Rafflesia buds and blooms. It does very little damage to the host plant, although it constantly sucks nutrients and water.
Flowering and Pollination
The Rafflesia produces a tiny bud on the host tetrastigma vine. The bud erupts near the plant's roots or twining tendrils. The bud takes 12 months to swell before it blossoms. According to the Oracle Education Foundation, it blooms around midnight on a rainy night. The blossom lasts only 5 to 7 days. Flowers are either male or female and produce a pungent, unpleasant aroma that many say smells similar to rotting flesh. The unpleasant smell attracts flies to help ensure pollination. The flowers appear with five large petals and a reddish-orange coloration. White speckling adorns each petal.
Pollination is rare because most locations contain only male flowers or female flowers. For pollination to occur, the fly must land on the male flower and then take the pollen to the female flower. If pollination occurs, the flower produces a globular, smooth-skinned fruit measuring up to 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. It contains thousands of seeds. Birds and squirrels enjoy eating the fruit and help to spread the Rafflesia seeds through their eliminations.
The Rafflesia is in serious danger of extinction as the rainforest is burned and cleared for crop production and urban growth. The buds are also harvested and sold because locals believe they have medicinal properties if consumed. The plant has never been cultivated in captivity, and it only grows on the tetrastigma vine, so its survival is seriously threatened.
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