8 of the Biggest Flowers on Earth

Tree-sized corpse flower blooming in a greenhouse
Hailing from the tropical rainforests of the world, the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) can grow to be 12 feet tall.

Richard J. Rehman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

For millions of years, flowers have dotted the landscape. Their simple manipulative evolutionary innovation—using color and scent to trick insects and animals into doing their bidding—has persisted and proven to be highly effective. Today, flowering plants are among the most diverse classes of life on the planet, and the exceedingly massive ones show just how far the adaptations have been pushed.

From the infamous, three-feet-in-diameter "monster flower" to a type of lily pad so large it can easily hold a small child, here are eight of the biggest flowers on earth.

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Monster Flower (Rafflesia arnoldii)

Large Rafflesia arnoldii blossom on the forest floor

Karl Lehmann / Getty Images 

Among all of the large flowers, Rafflesia arnoldi produces the largest single bloom. Native to the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is one of three national flowers, the so-called "monster flower" can grow up to three feet in diameter and weigh up to 15 pounds.

More than its size, though, Rafflesia is known for its scent. It sometimes shares the common name "corpse flower" with another giant bloom, Amorphophallus titanum, because they both reek of rotting meat—an adaptation they developed to attract flies, which help pollinate the plants. The monster flower grows only on the tendrils of the Tetrastigma vine, which in turn only grows in pristine rainforest. This means the unusual bloom's habitat is rapidly disappearing.

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Corpse Flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

Giant corpse flower partially opened in rainforest

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Bestowing a "largest flower" title is not always as simple as measuring blooms. Indeed, Amorphophallus titanum—having an inflorescence that can grow 10 feet in height—is not small by any definition. But unlike Rafflesia, though, this large rainforest gem is composed of hundreds of small buds on a single stalk rather than a single flower.

What Is an Inflorescence?

An inflorescence is a cluster of flowers that sits on a "floral axis"—i.e., a stem, branch, or system of branches. It contains the peduncle (supporting stalk), bract (a specialized leaf that serves as the inflorescence axis), pedicel (flower stalk), and the flower itself.

Native to Sumatra, Indonesia, the plant remains rare there but is now cultivated in gardens around the world. Still, blooms remain infrequent both in the wild and in captivity. Like Rafflesia, Amorphophallus titanum also attracts pollinators with the smell of rotting meat, meaning the two battle for both the "corpse flower" nickname and the "largest flower" superlative.

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Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera)

Flowering tops of two tree-sized palm talipots

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Able to grow more than 80 feet tall, Corypha umbraculifera—better known as the "Talipot palm"—is the largest flowering plant with branched inflorescence. This simply means that instead of budding off a single stalk, the flowers of the talipot bud from tiny branches attached to the main stalk. They appear like fluffy, golden, fan-shaped leaves atop a palmlike trunk. The talipot's inflorescence alone can grow between 19 to 26 feet long. This gargantuan palm is native to India and Sri Lanka and is also grown throughout Southeast Asia, China, and the Andaman Islands.

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Quaking Aspen (Pando)

Bright-yellow quaking aspen grove during autumn

Photography by Deb Snelson / Getty Images

Quaking aspens are technically deciduous trees, but they do flower—albeit rarely. Though their elusive blooms are quite small, the plant itself can be massive. Perhaps the best example of this is Pando, a clonal colony of a single male tree thought to cover 107 acres in Utah. More than 47,000 trees, or stems, have sprouted from a single root system that is thought to weigh about 13 million pounds and be more than 80,000 years old. That makes Pando one of the world's oldest living organisms in addition to being one of the largest.

What Is a Clonal Colony?

A clonal colony is a group of genetically identical plants derived from a single ancestor that grow in a given location. Individual plants in a colony are called ramets.

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Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceanica)

Snorkeler swimming near large posidonia
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Not even the quaking aspen can match the size or age of Posidonia, though. This flowering grass that proliferates in the Mediterranean Sea and off the coast of Australia grows in clonal colonies. One such colony, discovered in the Mediterranean in 2006, is several miles wide and believed to be hundreds of thousands of years old. Overall, the marine "flower" known also as Neptune grass covers an area of about 15,000 square miles in the Mediterranean. It plays a key role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, but it is currently threatened by rising water temperatures.

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Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflower field with focus on three tall sunflowers

Ewen Charlton / Getty Images

In the U.S., at least, sunflowers are one of the most well-known flower giants. While other botanical behemoths are confined to remote rainforests and the occasional botanical garden, the common sunflower displays its oversized inflorescence all over the states. When given room, sun, and ample water, these sun-resembling blooms can grow up to 30 feet tall and be more than a foot in diameter. The heads usually contain 13 to 30 ray flowers and hundreds (sometimes thousands) of disc flowers.

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Queen of the Andes (Puya raimondii)

Queen of the Andes plant standing tall against snow-capped mountains
Tainah Narducci / Getty Images

The largest bromeliad—a group of thousands of plants native to tropical and subtropical America—has been dubbed queen of the Andes for its tendency to send a flower stalk up 30 feet high amid snow-capped mountains. The University of California Botanical Garden says this plant can set up to 12 million seeds and produce thousands of flowers—but only when it reaches about 80 to 100 years old. Unfortunately, it dies after flowering, as most bromeliads do. The Puya raimondii occurs in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, usually no less than 13,000 feet above sea level.

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Amazon Water Lily (Victoria amazonica)

Close-up of giant Amazon lily pads in water
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Victoria Amazonica is the largest organism in the water lily family, Nymphaeaceae, its pad growing up to eight feet in diameter. Native to tropical regions of South America—like Guyana, where they're the national flower—these enormous water lilies grow best in still, warm water that's more than 70 degrees. With their unprecedented size also comes impressive strength: The biggest pads can support the weight of a small child.

While their soccer ball-sized flowers are a sight to behold—imagine white soccer ball-sized blooms that smell like pineapple—they're elusive, appearing exclusively at night and only for a few days.