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LEXICON

 

 

Rafflesia

Name of a genus of parasitic flowering plants, of which there are several species, with Rafflesia arnoldii being known as the world's biggest single ‘flower’, with a diameter of up to a meter. It only occurs in the Sundaic region of Southeast Asia, and further in Sarawak (Borneo) and Sumatra (Indonesia). The Rafflesia species found in Thailand has the botanical name Rafflesia kerrii (fig.) and is habitually found in Khao Sok National Park (fig.), in the southern province of Surat Thani, which made the Rafflesia its symbol. The Rafflesia is a parasitic plant that does not put down roots, but attaches itself to the nutrient system of woody lianas of the genus Tetrastigma. The flower buds, which swell to the size of a football (fig.), may first emerge on the host liana from October to December and it blossoms for only a couple of days per year in January and February, after which it completely dies back. It is totally unpredictable when exactly it will sprout next. Its pungent odour resembles the smell of rotting carrion, which attracts flies that pollinate it. The plant is named after Sir Stamford Raffles (fig.), the founder of Singapore, who introduced it to the West in the beginning of the 19th century. Due to the typical odour described above, the Rafflesia is sometimes called carrion flower, a designation which may have led to the fact that it is sometimes mistaken for a carnivorous plant, though it is in reality parasitic and not carnivorous. In Thai, it is called bua phut.