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369

Rafflesia arnoldii

OLogy Series
plant
card
369

Rafflesia arnoldii

OLogy Series
plant

The world's largest flower grows in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. But its enormous, bright red bloom does not fill the air with a sweet aroma. In fact, the Rafflesia arnoldii is known as the "corpse flower" because it smells like dead flesh. And unlike most plants, this flower does not use energy from the Sun to make its own food. Instead, it is a parasite: it gets all its nutrients and water from a host, a vine in the grape family.

Why do corpse flowers smell like rotting meat?

to attract egg-laying flies

to attract meat-eating mammals

to repel plant-eating animals

Are you right?

Correct!

This scent attracts carrion flies, which lay their eggs in decaying dead animals. Since male flowers may bloom far from females in the rainforest, they need help from carrion flies to spread their pollen.

The corpse flower is a parasite. Parasite comes the Greek word parasitos, which means:

someone who cuts down grape vines

someone who eats at another's table

someone who lives in a rainforest

Are you right?

Correct!

In nature, a parasite is an unwelcome dinner guest! Rather than making or gathering their own food, they let other organisms do the work.

When it's not in bloom, the corpse flower is barely visible because it has no stem, leaves, or roots.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Besides the flower, the plant is made up of strands of tissue that run between the cells of its host. It doesn't need the other parts because it gets everything it needs from its host!

Millions of years ago, the ancestors of the corpse flower were much larger than they are today.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Its flowers are actually about 80 times larger than they were 46 million years ago. The flower of its ancestors was only about 1/4 inch wide!

Common Name: corpse flower
Scientific Name: Rafflesia arnoldii
Description: a rare parasitic plant with large flowers, no roots, and no leaves
Habitat: rainforests
Range: Southeast Asia
Cool Fact: Its flowers can measure three feet (one meter) across and weigh up to 15 pounds (seven kilograms)!

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).