Flowers that smell like the dead

My least favourite plant for smell alone is hedge woundwort. It’s related to mint but is really unpleasantly stinky. It makes me shudder just to think about it. Luckily the fetid scent is only released when you crush the leaves. However in the forests of south-east Asia, the scent of Rafflesias have a much-more potent reputation. Named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Rafflesias are also known as corpse flowers because they smell of rotting flesh. These amazing plants are found only in south-east Asia and amongst the 28 different species are some of the biggest flowers in the world. The largest Rafflesia arnoldii is found on Sumatra, Java and Borneo, and can grow to an impressive 1 metre across.

The smell of the super-sized flowers attracts flies but they’re not being lured to their death. The flies are actually pollinators and transfer pollen from plant to plant. Rafflesias aren’t carnivorous but they are parasites. Their roots spread inside their host vines.

The smallest ‘biggest’ flower in the world is Rafflesia consueloae. It was discovered on a mountainside in Luzon in the Philippines in February 2014. Unlike it’s larger cousins, it smells of coconut!

rafflesia

The collage is life-size with a Philippine 1 peso for scale.

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