Rafflesia – the world’s largest flower

On the way back from Kinabalu National Park we stopped, in the middle of nowhere, by a big sign advertising the opportunity to view a Rafflesia flower. It took a 10min walk thorough private land and 20 Malaysian ringgits per person (51HKD) to reach the largest (individual) flower on earth. We were very lucky as it is rare, is impossible to cultivate and likes to grow in random places. Sometimes people hike for hours just to get a glimpse. It can be up to 1 meter in diameter and weigh up to 11 kgs.

The Rafflesia blooms for only 6 to 7 days and then the petals blacken and the flower dies. So, the lucky family that owns the land on which the flower grows only has 7 days max to make money out of it. In Sabah it is also known as the money flower. We were spared the smell of decaying flesh/rotten meat as it was the fourth day – the Rafflesia flower is also known as the ‘corpse’ or ‘meat’ flower. Rafflesia was discovered in the rain forests of Sumatra (Indonesia) by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818 and is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition.

The plant has no stems, leaves or roots. Lives as a parasite. This flower was 76cm in diameter and four days old.

The owners built a small bridge in order for tourists to get closer, but no too close. It was protected from the sun by a big umbrella and from tourists by a teenage ‘security guard’. On this photo it looks small, but believe me it was BIG – 76cm is a lot of flower. I just have to learn how to take better photos. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

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