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Question:

    What is the largest flower in the world?

Answer:    

    The Rafflesia arnoldii.

The flower with the world's largest bloom is the Rafflesia arnoldii. This rare flower is found in the rainforests of Indonesia. It can grow to be 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds! It is a parasitic plant, with no visible leaves, roots, or stem. It attaches itself to a host plant to obtain water and nutrients. When in bloom, the Rafflesia emits a repulsive odor, similar to that of rotting meat. This odor attracts insects that pollinate the plant.

Another enormous flower found in Indonesia is the Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan arum. It is also known as the "corpse flower" for its unpleasant odor. Like the Rafflesia, the Titan emits the smell of rotting flesh to attract pollinators. Technically, the Titan arum is not a single flower. It is a cluster of many tiny flowers, called an inflorescence. The Titan arum has the largest unbranched inflorescence of all flowering plants. The plant can reach heights of 7 to 12 feet and weigh as much as 170 pounds!

Standard DisclaimerRelated Web Sites
  • Kew Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew Science Blog: Amor-phew-phallus - Kew Scientist Geoffrey Kite and Amorphophallus expert Wilbert Hetterscheid explain why they spent their evenings trying to capture the odours of some of the world's weirdest and smelliest 'flowers'.
  • Kew’s Plants of the World Online POWO draws together Kew’s extensive data resources including its regional Floras and monographs, alongside images from the digitisation of the collections.
  • Rafflesia arnoldii - This page contains photographs of the Rafflesia arnoldii.
  • U.S. Botanic Garden Three corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) plants, also known as titan arum or the stinky plant, bloomed in August 2017 at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory. It was the first bloom for all three of the plants, which varied in age from five years up to 12 years old.
  • Virtual Herbarium: Conserving the Giant Titans - This site provides the history, statistics, and frequently asked questions about the Titan Arum, as well as, documented blooms of the Titan Arum in the United States.

Library of Congress Web SiteFurther Reading
  • Attenborough, David. The private life of plants: A natural history of plant behaviour. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1995. 320 p.
  • Emboden, Willliam A. Bizarre plants: magical, monstrous, mythical. London, Studio Vista, 1974. 214 p.
  • Nais, Jamili. Rafflesia of the world. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Parks, 2001. 243 p
  • Ross, Edward S. Rafflesia: the superflower. California Wild, v. 56, Summer, 2003 p. 8-11.

SearchFor more print resources...
Search on "Botany," "botany Indonesia," "plants Indonesia," or "tropical plants" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Photograph of Rafflesia arnoldii
The Rafflesia arnoldii is the world's largest flower. Photograph by Harry Wiriadinata and Suwito Alam from article in Voice of Nature, v. 84, August 1990, p. 14.

Photo: large plant, very tall and white, surrounded by a green and red fringe.


Two views of the titan arum blooming in July 2013 at the United States Botanic Garden. The Titan arum is the plant with the world's largest inflorescence, or cluster or flowers. Photo from the United States Botanic Garden Website.

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 September 27, 2018
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