Often called the corpse flower, Rafflesia arnoldi blooms into the single largest individual flower in the world.
When it does, it emits a vile aroma, similar to rotten meat, attracting insects, such as flies and beetles, that feed on dead flesh.
These flesh-loving creatures pollinate the flower, allowing it to spread through the rainforests of Borneo.
Due to the incredibly specific requirements of the plant, almost no botanical gardens have a Rafflesia arnoldi in cultivation, including Kew.
Rafflesia arnoldi has no leaves, stems or roots, and is a parasitic plant that grows on vines in the genus Tetrastigma.
Rafflesia arnoldi lives inside Tetrastigma vines as a mass of fleshy strands which absorb water and nutrients from the host. It grows out of the host plant's bark as brown, cabbage-like buds called knops which bloom over several days. The flowers have five lobes, are reddish-brown with white spots, and grow up to 1m across. They appear for a week, releasing a scent of rotting meat.
The flower is an iconic symbol of southeast Asian rainforest, and has been depicted on several Indonesian postage stamps.
The flower buds are used in traditional medicine to help with pregnancy, and as an aphrodisiac, although there has been limited scientific investigation into their effectiveness.
Did you know?
While it isn’t listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, numbers of Rafflesia species across Indonesia are falling due to the impact of ecotourism.
To assist with pollination, Rafflesia flowers also produce heat which helps to spread their foul aroma.
Rafflesia arnoldi pollen, unlike many other pollens, is a thick sticky liquid that dries on the back of flies and can be transported several miles before pollinating another flower.
There is evidence to suggest that Rafflesia arnoldi has stolen DNA from its host species through a process called 'horizontal gene transfer'.
Rafflesia arnoldi is often confused with another 'corpse flower', the titan arum. Although they both have large flowers and produce the smell of rotten meat, they are completely unrelated.
Where in the world?
Tropical rainforest, exclusively on vines in the genus Tetrastigma.