Rafflesia Flower

Just some personal notes and facts about Rafflesia flower plant. If ever any of you guys decided to go for a Rafflesia flower hiking adventures tour in Cameron Highlands, you might want to know a thing or two about Rafflesia.

Most of you (including me) would have thought that the biggest flower in the world would be smelly as reported by most publication and encyclopaedia. The general consensus is that it smells like rotten meat does not apply to the Rafflesia plant found around the area of Cameron Highlands. I was standing next to get a picture of Rafflesia flower for a photo souvenir, and I couldn't smell a thing! I was not having any flu or block nose though I must admit that I was rather tired after the half hour hiking trail in the jungle.

Picture of Rafflesia flower plant in Cameron Highlands

The smell from the Rafflesia flower is to attract the insects and flies to enable pollination of the flower. According to the guide, although we couldn't whiff the stench from this variety, it still exudes a smell that is similar to that of animals to attract the insects and flies for pollination.

For a Rafflesia flower to grow it takes about nine to twelfth months to grow, and detecting where the Rafflesia is growing is not easy because the bud remain unseen hidden inside a host plant. Rafflesia are a kind of endoparasite feeding off from other plant. So if you are planning to go on your own to see a Rafflesia plant it will not be so easy to find them. The Rafflesia that I went for a look was guided by the Orang Asli who has scouted the area before hand. It is also a way for the Orang Asli to earn some tourist income via the tour and travel companies that organize the hiking adventure trip. The Orang Asli are the expert trekkers and knows about the jungle forest very well.

Interesting thing about Rafflesia flower is that its bud will bloom into a flower at around midnight during rainy season. It was reported that during this El Nino period, the number of Rafflesia blooming is much less because of less rainfall that being experienced in Malaysia. Although a dryer season would be easier to do a hiking adventure, but it would also mean less chances of observing a Rafflesia flower in the Cameron Highlands' jungle. I guess it is one of the reasons why the hiking trek that I went along was so muddy, as the Rafflesia flower likes to have a fair amount of water.

The Rafflesia flower habitat is found mostly in the rainforest of Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines, and Borneo.

The biggest measured size of Rafflesia flower on record is about 1.4 meters and they can a weight of between 7 to 11 kilograms. The one that I observed could be about 1.0 to 1.2 meters wide. This was just a guest but the tour guide said it was 1.2 meters in size. I didn't see him carrying a measuring tape so very likely it was just a guestimate. But the sight of a giant Rafflesia was rather astounding and worth the tiring hiking trek through muddy and slippery trail!

Rafflesia flowers are considered unisexual in that there is a male version and a female version. However for the chance to get pollinated is very rare and 20% to 30% of the buds will develop into flowers. In addition, the male and female Rafflesia plant do not bloom at the same time, so I wonder how Rafflesia can survive for so long given the low rate of pollination. Perhaps it is also a reason contributing to its endangered species status.

Most Rafflesia flowers are the five petals variety. However for this hiking adventure that I went along, the Rafflesia flower that we observed is the six petal variety.

And lastly on the name of the Rafflesia flower, it was named after Sir Stamford Raffles who conducted an expedition into the rainforest jungle of Indonesia. And the species of Rafflesia Arnoldii was named after Dr. James Arnold who was a member of the same expedition. Thus the widely known specie is the Rafflesia Arnoldii which is the five petal variety, though for this Rafflesia flower hiking adventures trek that I tag along in this tour was the six petal variety. I don't know the exact name for this one that I observed, but still I was glad to have seen a Rafflesia flower blooming in the Ulu Kelantan jungle in the region of Cameron Highlands!


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