World's Largest Flower Bloom Found in Remote Indonesian Jungle

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A Rafflesia tuan-mudae in Gunung Gading National Park. Beavittw/Wiki Commons [CC 3.0 License]

While stumbling through some remote jungle in Indonesia's West Sumatra, conservationists claim to have spotted the world's largest flower bloom ever recorded, reports

The specimen is a giant Rafflesia tuan-mudae, a species that boasts mammoth but elusive blossoms that only bloom for about seven days at the end of the plant's lifespan. The record flower measured in at a diameter of 111 centimeters (3.6 feet), which makes it larger than the previous record holder by 4 centimeters, also a Rafflesia tuan-mudae.

"This is the largest Rafflesia tuan-mudae that has ever been documented," said Ade Putra at the Agam Conservation Agency in Sumatra.

The flower is characterized by its flesh-colored petals that are covered in white blister-like spots. That might not sound like the most flattering description, but it's apropos considering the smell this species is known to emit. Rafflesia tuan-mudae are a type of corpse flower, which smells like a rotting carcass. Don't let this fact lessen the glory of a find like this, however. What the flower lacks in fragrance, it makes up for in its fascinating biology.

The pungent odor is meant to attract flies, which are this flower's principal pollinators. Interestingly, it's still a mystery as to what type of animal distributes the R. tuan-mudae seeds.

These plants are also parasitic, growing inside the root of a host plant for around nine months until suddenly revealing themselves to the world with their gigantic stinking blooms. They were named "Rafflesia" after a British colonialist, Sir Stamford Raffles, who was the first to officially identify one in the early 19th century. Hopefully for Raffles' sake, it was named after him to honor the discovery, not because of the good sir's scent.

Admittedly, it takes a special kind of conservationist to run toward one of these flowers rather than away, but in this case the prize was worth the stench. Whatever its smell, it's a special plant, and it's encouraging that such rare natural wonders can still find room to grow on our crowded planet.