The Rafflesia is the largest flower in the World with recent flowers found measuring up to 95cm (3 feet) across. There are 55 species of Rafflesia, of which 9 are found in Borneo.
Alongside their rarity, size and unusual appearance, it is the strange lifestyle of Rafflesias that make them so fascinating. The Rafflesia is a totally parasitic flower. The only visible part of the plant is a single flower that has no leaves, stems or roots. The cabbage like bud of the Rafflesia lies apparently 'dormant' for up to 16 months before blooming. Once a bud reaches maturity, it begins to uncurl at night, although the process may take between 12 to 48 hours to complete. From this point the clock is ticking for the next generation of Rafflesias to be conceived, as after just 8 to 10 days the bloom of the Rafflesia begins to show significant signs of deterioration.
During this short blooming period, the flowers are assumed to be pollinated by blue bottles and carrion flies. These are attracted by the sight of the bloom and its smell, which resembles rotting flesh. Pollination has to take place very quickly, as the blooms do not last very long. For pollination to occur successfully, both male and female flowers must be in bloom simultaneously in the same area, so that flies can pass between them.
Rafflesia is the official state flower of Sabah state in Malaysia. Rafflesia was found in the Indonesian rain forest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition. In Malays, Rafflesia was known as Bunga Pakma.