Ruth S., with another write-up:
Shona Ellis is the lucky lady that was guided to this masterpiece of a flower in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park in December 2007. Thank you, Shona, for contributing this beautifully disgusting photo!
Pee eeuuhh! A parasite of Terastigma vines in southeast Asia, the genus Rafflesia is a very strange one indeed. This angiosperm has no leaves, roots or stems. It is completely dependent on its vine host as its hyphae-esque threads invade the vine’s woody tissues. Of the 16 known species of Rafflesia, the most famous is Rafflesia arnoldii, gaining recognition for having the largest flower on Earth (approx. 1 meter or 3 feet in diameter). As an aside, recognition for the largest inflorescence in the world goes to Amorphophallus titanum, commonly known as the corpse plant or titan arum.
Plants of this species of Rafflesia are only visible when in bud and flower. The bud starts out as a brown bract-encased ball and, over the course of a year, matures to a cabbage-looking mass that then opens up to display its huge, fleshy, 5-merous flower. The thick brown bracts are visible in one of the pictures provided above. Blowflies are observed to be the target pollinators of Rafflesia kerrii, and for this reason a very special cologne is brewed up and worn by the flower. The gag-inducing scent of rotting flesh is excreted for the week that this flower lives. The smell has been compared to that of a rotting buffalo carcass. I think this would make a perfect Halloween costume, although you might be spending it alone…BOO!
Wikipedia has more on Rafflesia kerrii.
Daniel adds: For those of you who interested in the Schizophyllum commune entry from a couple days ago, do check out amadej@UBC BG Forum’s images submitted in response to the entry for more spookiness: Schizophyllum commune.