Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the most common and well-known flowers in the world of cocoa, with a population of more than 1.5 million plants.
This Southeast Asian plant has the largest known single flower in the world and there is a population of more than 1.5 million plants. There are two species of Rafflesia arnoldii, one of the most common and known with a population of about 2 million.
Rafflesia arnoldii is visible when its thick buds emerge from the bark of its host and develop into large fleshy flowers pollinated by carrion flies. It grows on woody host trunks and has roots and leaves, but no roots or leaves.
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Rafflesia arnoldii is a parasitic plant without roots or leaves, the main body of which is located within the host plant. The only visible part is the flower that breaks out of the bark of its compact buds.
The flower has a diameter of up to 1 m and consists of a shell structure in which five lobes are placed. The pulp is reddish-brown with white spots and it is either male or female, and the flowers are up to 1.5 m in diameter with a diameter of 2 m.
The fruit is a berry with tiny seeds, and the disc is located in the middle of the cup, in which a column or disc is surrounded by columns or slices.
The fetal smell of the flower attracts carrion flies (genera Lucilia and Sarcophaga), but the flies do not seem to receive any reward from the plant. It is likely that the damaged roots and stems of Rafflesia seedlings will be affected, but not the flowers.
The main difference between the two is that the central disk (Ramta) is partially missing. These two species are known as R. arnoldii var, which is more common in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
A race for discovery
The first botanist to discover Rafflesia was the late Dr. William H. Mott, professor of botany at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a member of the Royal Society of Botany, the oldest botanical society in the world, and the author of several books.
During this expedition he spent three years in South Africa, where in 1797 he collected what is now known as R. patma. The British and French, who were at war, took his ship and all his papers and notes were confiscated.
He collected the Rafflesia species, which was found in 1818 by a Malay servant on Sumatra and was reborn in 1954 when it was rediscovered at the Natural History Museum in London.
Lady Raffles, who was also present when the specimen was taken, finished the plant that Arnold had begun to paint and sent it to Joseph Banks for receipt. Banks donated the material to Robert H. Arnold, a botanist from Kew and founder of the Royal Botanic Garden in London. Arnold fell ill with a fever and died shortly after his discovery, but not before he had finished drawing.
He rushed to write a description to ensure that, despite his loss of notes, Deschamps could publish the name of the newly discovered species in time. He kept the draft on standby until the news the French wanted to publish was so bad that they had to wait for a better – prepared – version from the British Museum.
Brown described the species Rafflesia arnoldii as Arnold described it in the Annals of Philosophy, published in September of that year. S.F. Gray confirmed that although Brown originally intended to call it Arnoldii, in his original description he had actually suggested a more appropriate name: “Rafflesiania rafflesii.”
Threats and conservation
The number of flower buds produced each year has fallen significantly due to human disturbances. Many of the sites where Rafflesia grows are now open to tourists, which provides a great opportunity to preserve the species in its natural habitat in the tropical rainforests of South and East Asia.
Traditional medicine uses flower buds to promote childbirth and recovery after birth, as well as a source of vitamins, minerals and minerals for the body.
It is also used as an aphrodisiac and is likely to be associated with the use of flower buds in traditional medicine in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. Rafflesia arnoldii is native to Indonesia, South and East Asia and is often used in tourist brochures to symbolize the rich biodiversity of the forests of this region. Indonesian stamps show this flower as well as flowers of related Raffleia species, which are depicted in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.
It is also used in the Flora Malesiana project, which is intended to describe flowering plants in the region from Thailand to Australia. In the forested areas where Rafflesia arnoldii grows, ecotourists who provide income for the locals in protected areas visit the fruits – and eat squirrels and shrews as well as other bird species.
Rafflesia plants are grown for cultivation, and it is usually assumed that this is due to the ability to transplant the host plant and successfully infect a healthy host during cultivation. There is no evidence that the raffleia plant has ever been cultivated in the United States for more than a few years.
Where to see this at Kew
Rafflesia arnoldii has never grown outside Kew, but a wax model is on display in the museum. It was bought in 1855 by a horticultural company for $20. (PS20) and has been on view since then.
The extant Rafflesia arnoldii is currently buried in the Kew herbarium along with a number of other rare plants from the same area of Singapore.
The preserved flowers of Rafflesia arnoldii are located in the herbarium of Kew, where they are available to researchers by appointment.
It has not yet been assessed, but it is considered vulnerable because it can disturb tourists and collect flower buds for traditional medicine.