The Rafflesia is a genus that has about twenty parasitic plants, widespread in central and southern Asia. These are very particular plants, which live only as parasites on specimens of tetrastigma, large climbers of the rainforests. They are completely devoid of foliage, stem and roots, and sink their austori directly into the tissues of the host plant.
The visible part of the plant is only the flower which is very particular both in the forms and in the colors; it is a flower of variable dimensions, from 20 to 100 cm in diameter, depending on the species; consisting of a spherical area surrounded by large rigid petals; it has a red or brownish color, the surface is covered with a thin down, and is moist and soft; they emit a strong foul odor, similar to that of rotting flesh, which attracts flies, which in this case act as pollinating insects. The fertilized flowers close to form strange roundish balls, soft to the touch, brown or black, inside which there are innumerable small seeds.
Due to deforestation and climate change the plants of rafflesia they are becoming increasingly rare. The Rafflesia arnoldii species is very particular and differs among the other species of this genus in that it has one of the largest flowers in the world, which reaches 100 cm in diameter and 10 kg in weight.
The very bad smell that these plants give is worth the nickname of a corpse plant.
The rafflesie are plants that are not cultivated, as in general the seeds germinate only after having been digested by particular rodents present only in the forests of origin of the plant and moreover, only particular insects can transmit the pollen from the male plant to the female one.
Ornamental cultivation is practically non-existent also due to the very long time of this plant, which can take several months to ripen its own flower, to then see it fade and wither in less than a week.
They prefer average temperatures close to 20 ° C and fear the cold and temperature changes. They do not need nourishment or watering, as they draw their nourishment from the plant that hosts them.
Apart from these indications on the way in which they live and on the climatic conditions necessary for their development, the cultivation of the Rafflesia is so rare and difficult that the cultivation councils are limited to a few tricks, given the limited experience with this species.
Pests and diseases
Generally these plants are not attacked by insects or animals, as the unpleasant smell they give off keeps them away; since the plant has only flowers, it is unlikely to be attacked by fungal parasites, which do not find large tissues to attack.
Despite this, the Rafflesia is a very delicate plant currently at high risk of extinction due to the difficulties it finds in reproducing and adapting to changes.
Rafflesia: Main varieties
The known varieties of Rafflesia are different but without a doubt Rafflesia manilliana and Rafflesia arnoldii are the best known. The Rafflesia arnoldii has a flower that can also have a diameter of 100 centimeters and weigh up to 10 kilos, which are decidedly incredible values and "guinness of the primates" for a flower.