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Home » Bengkulu City » Rafflesia Arnoldii: The Exceptional Icon of Bengkulu and Indonesia’s National Flower

Rafflesia Arnoldii: The Exceptional Icon of Bengkulu and Indonesia’s National Flower

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Overview

Blessed with some of the most astounding natural wonders, the Indonesian archipelago is home to some of the most fascinating and rarest flora and fauna the world has seen.

 

 Amidst the lush tropical rainforests of Sumatra grow the rare and exotic Rafflesia Arnoldii, recognized as the largest flower in the world. Found predominantly in the forests of Bengkulu on Sumatra, the flower has become the icon of Bengkulu province.

 

Known as Padma Raksasa (Giant Padma) in the Indonesian language,  the Rafflesia Arnoldii was  designated as one of Indonesia’s  three National Flowers by Presidential Decree No. 4 of 1993 that gave it the title of Puspa Langka or the  Rare Flower. Whereas, the other two are the small white jasmine (Jasminum sambac) named Puspa Bangsa (the Nation’s Flower) and the white moon orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) the name  Puspa Nusa (or Flower of the Archipelago).

 

Rafflesia Arnoldii is a member of the genus Rafflesia. It is noted for producing the largest individual flower on earth. Although some plants such as the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) and talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera) may have larger flowering organs, however unlike the Rafflesia Arnoldii, these are technically clusters of many flowers. Rafflesia Arnoldii’s distinct feature is its strong odor of decaying flesh,  for which reason,  therefore,  the flower is nicknamed the "corpse flower".

 

The Rafflesia Arnoldii can grow to around 1 meter in diameter, and weighs up to 11Kg. It lives as a parasite on the Tetrastigma vine, which grows only in primary and relatively undisturbed rainforests. This plant produces no leaves, stems or roots and does not have chlorophyll. Perhaps the only part of Rafflesia that is identifiable as distinctly plant-like are its flowers; although, even these are unusual since they attain massive proportions, have a reddish-brown coloration and a stench of rotting flesh. This scent attracts flies and other insects which then pollinate the rare plant.

 

The Rafflesia Arnoldii is truly a rare flower since the buds take many months to develop and the flower only lasts for just a week ( betweem 5-7 days). When Rafflesia is ready to reproduce, a tiny bud forms outside the root or stem of its host and develops over a period of a year. The cabbage-like head that develops eventually opens to reveal the flower. 

 

The stigma or stamen are attached to a spiked disk inside the flower. A foul smell of rotting meat attracts flies and beetles to pollinate. To pollinate successfully, the flies and/or beetles must visit both the male and female plants, in that order.

 

The plant is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles - then Governor General of Bencoolen - and British botanist, Dr.Joseph Arnold who were responsible for the discovery of this rare plant in 1818. History records that the unique flora was first discovered by a local servant who worked for Dr.Joseph Arnold somewhere near the Manna River, Lubuk Tapi, South Bengkulu Regency, in  an expedition led by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

 

The generic name, Rafflesia (given in honour of Sir Raffles) was validated by S.F. Gray in his report of the June 1820 to the  Meeting of the Linnean Society of London, as published in the Annals of Philosophy in September that year. While the species Rafflesia arnoldii was officially described for the first time in 1821 by Robert Brown of the British Museum.

 

Today, the flower has become the icon and pride of Bengkulu. Growing in the wild in the tropical forests of the province, the best place to see them is around the town of Curup, in the  Rejang Lebong Regency. The best time to observe these giant wonders are around November to December when they are mostly pollinated, revealing the blooming flowers.

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Rafflesia Arnoldii: The Exceptional Icon of Bengkulu and Indonesia’s National Flower

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