The Rafflesia arnoldii (Photo: Harry Wiriadinata and Suwito Alam)
The rafflesia is both a flower and a parasite, with a rotting-flesh odor to boot. Meghan Vigeant reports.
[SWARM OF INSECTS BUZZING]
VIGEANT: Layers of blotchy red flesh lie on the forest floor. A putrid odor rises attracting swarms of carrion flies. The flies think it’s an animal carcass. But it’s not. It’s a flower.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
VIGEANT: It’s called the rafflesia, and it’s the world’s biggest and smelliest flower. The bizarre plant, grows in Indonesia and instead of a sweet smell it mimics a dead animal to attract pollinating insects. It’s always been thought to be something of an orphan. But researchers writing in the journal, Science say they’ve finally found the rafflesia’s true family. And it turns out one of its closest relatives is the beloved poinsettia. They’re both members of the Euphorbiaceae- or surge- family, which also includes such familiar favorites as Irish bells and rubber trees.
And it’s an ancient family. The rafflesia dates back to the days of the dinosaurs, making it one of the first flowers on earth.
VIGEANT: While the dinos might be gone, this beastly flower is still stinking it up.
VIGEANT: That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Meghan Vigeant.
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