WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FLOWER IN THE WORLD?




Titan arums are true giants amongst all flowering plants. So big are they that the circumference of their huge flowers can be over three metres and they stand three metres high. In fact their single leaf can grow to the size of a small tree! Their smell - likened to rotting meat - is so bad that it led to it receiving the common name of 'corpse flower'. However there is good reason for this as both the 'fragrance' and the flower's meat-colouration is there to attract pollinators - in this case carrion flies and beetles. The common name of corpse flower was given to it by Sir David Attenborough during the filming of the Private Life of Plants series.

The huge flower consists of a bell-shaped spathe - up to 3 metres in circumference - with ribbed sides and a frilled edge which circles around a central spike-like spadix.

On the outside, the enveloping spathe is green speckled with cream, while its interior is rich crimson.

At its base, the spathe forms a chamber which encloses the true flowers which are carried at the lower end of the greyish-yellow spadix.

The body of the flower arises from an underground tuber, a swollen stem that had evolved to store food for the plant.

This tuber is more or less spherical in shape and can weigh in at 70 kg or more! This makes its the largest such structure known in the plant kingdom.

The plant was first discovered in Sumatra in 1878 by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari. He sent seeds to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew where it first bloomed in 1889. For more information click onto http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/titan-arum.htm

However, the Titan Arum is technically a flowering organ partly made from clusters of many flowers so if you want to be pedantic about things, the largest 'true' flower is the Rafflesia arnoldii.

Again, it is noted for producing the largest individual flower on earth, and for producing a strong odour of decaying flesh. It is an endemic plant that occurs only in the rainforest of Bengkulu, Sumatra Island, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The Rafflesia arnoldii plant is rare and fairly hard to locate. It is especially difficult to locate the flower in forests as the buds take many months to develop and the flower lasts for just a few days. The flowers are unisexual and thus proximity of male and female flowers is vital for successful pollination. These factors make successful pollination a rare event.

When Rafflesia is ready to reproduce, a tiny bud forms on the outside of the root or stem and develops over a period of a year. The cabbage like head that develops, eventually opens to reveal the flower. The stigma or stamen are attached to a spiked disk inside the flower. A foul smell of rotting meat attracts flies and beetles to pollinate. To pollinate successfully, the flies and/or beetles must visit both the male and female plants. The fruit produced are round lots filled with smooth flesh including many thousands of hard coated seeds that are eaten and spread by tree shrews .

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