Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rafflesia - World's Largest Flower

Rafflesia - World's Largest Flower

Davao is no stranger to superlatives: Davao City being the largest city in the world, and is home to the largest eagle in the world, and the list goes on. . . And, I would not be surprised that, again, the largest flower in the world called Rafflesia should find its home in the foothill village of New Albay   mountain ranges in Maragusan, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte.

Map of Maragusan

 Maragusan, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte

Rafflesia is a large parasitic plant discovered in the lush tropical rain forest of Indonesia by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named it after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of the British colony of Singapore, and leader of the expedition. The discovery eventually led to more discovery of  27 species in southeastern Asia, on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and in the Philippines. 

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
July 6, 1781 - July 5, 1826 (aged 44)

Rafflesia is the world's largest, the heaviest, the rarest and the one of the most stinkiest flowers in the world. It grows to 1 meter wide and weighs about 10 kgs. The plant has no stems, leaves or roots, and does not have chlorophyll. It has only nutrient-absorbing threads to absorb nutrients from the host on which it lives. It is an endoparasite of vines in the genus Tetrastigma (Vitaceae), spreading its root-like haustoria inside the tissue of the vine. The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower. After 9 months of maturation, Rafflesia plant opens into a cabbage-sized bud. The sexual organs are located beneath the rim of the disk. The vile smell that the flower emits attracts insects such as flies and carrion beetles, which then pollinate the rare plant. Rafflesia is an official state flower of Indonesia, also Sabah state in Malaysia, as well as for the Surat Thani Province, Thailand.

World's largest, heaviest, rarest and the one of the most stinkiest flowers

Maragusan’s Rafflesia Mira is the fourth rafflesia species identified in the Philippines, along with Rafflesia Speciosa in Antique, and Rafflesia Manillana in Samar and Luzon.  A Rafflesia Mira in bloom measures 45-60 cm in diameter, approximately the same size as Rafflesia Speciosa's 45-56 cm, but larger than Luzon’s Rafflesia Manillana’s 14-20 cm diameter.

 Rafflesia Mira of Maragusan, Davao

Rafflesia Speciosa of Antique

Rafflesia Manillana of Samar and Luzon

Rafflesia Schadenbergiana of Davao

One other species, Rafflesia Schadenbergiana was last recorded in 1882 in Mount Apo in Davao and was widely believed to have been extinct until buds of the same species were rediscovered in South Cotabato in 1994. In 2007, Dr. Julie Barcelona, an international Filipino botanist from the Philippine National Museum, confirmed the discovery of yet another population of Rafflesia Schadenbergiana in Bukidnon.

Dr. Julie Barcelona

Dr. Daniel Nickrent

Dr. Daniel Nickrent in action

Two international plant scientists are currently pressing for a massive information and education campaign to raise awareness about the Rafflesia Mira. Dr. Daniel Nickrent, professor from Southern Illinois, United States, and Dr. Julie Barcelona, believe that the population in all the 11 sites he has visited belonges to the same Rafflesia Mira species. Dr. Nickrent explained that the genus Rafflesia Mira, with known 15 species, is endemic to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and ranks among the rarest and most endangered flowers in South-East Asia. Ten of these species are found in the Philippines. Maragusan’s Rafflesia Mira was discovered by Filipino scientists led by Dr. Edwino Fernando and Dr. Perry Ong in the foothill village of New Albay in Maragusan. 

Dr. Edwino Fernando

Dr. Perry Ong (5th from Left)
receives a Plaque of Appreciation during the
2004 Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science Awards

Other recorded Rafflesia species in the Philippines are the Rafflesia lobata discovered in 2005 in Mount Igtuog and Mount Sakpaw in Central Panay mountain range; the Rafflesia Baletei in the Mount Isarog and Mount Iriga range of Camarines Sur which was initially collected by botanist Danilo Balete in 1991; the Rafflesia Banahawensis of Mount Banahaw which Dr. Barcelona later renamed Rafflesia Philippensis Blanco after her investigation found that the species was first named by a Spanish plant collector in 1845; the Rafflesia Panchoana of Mount Makiling, a new species discovered in 2007 by scientist D. A. Madulid and co-authors on the rafflesia known originally as Rafflesia Manillana yielded the description of the new species; Rafflesia Leonardi of Sitio Kinapawan in the coastal town of Lal-lo in Cagayan Valley discovered in 2008; and Rafflesia Aurantis discovered in 2009 in the Quirino Protected Landscape, Quirino Province, Luzon.

Rafflesia lobata
Discovered in 2005 in Mount Igtuog and Mount Sakpaw in Central Panay 

Rafflesia Baletei discovered in 1991
In Mount Isarog and Mount Iriga range of Camarines Sur

Rafflesia Banahawensis of Mount Banahaw 
which Dr. Barcelona later renamed Rafflesia Philippensis Blanco

Rafflesia Panchoana of Mount Makiling discovered in 2007

Rafflesia Leonardi Sitio of Kinapawan in the coastal town of Lal-lo
in Cagayan Valley discovered in 2008

Rafflesia Aurantis discovered in 2009
In the Quirino Protected Landscape, Quirino Province, Luzon

Rafflesia Schadenbergiana, known as “bó-o” to the Bagobo tribe and “kolon busaw” to the Higaonon tribe of Bukidnon, has the largest flower among the Rafflesia species found in the Philippines with a diameter ranging from 52 to 80 centimeters. It has also the second largest flower in the genus after Rafflesia Arnoldii of Indonesia which measures up to one meter and can weigh up to nine kilograms.

Rafflesia Arnoldii of Indonesia

Scientists say more than 1.3 acres of forest disappear from the Earth’s surface every second or 75 acres in one minute. This is equivalent to 108,000 acres daily, and more than 40 million acres a year. Tropical rainforests are home to more than 50% of the world’s plant and animal species including the Rafflesia.

Dr. Nickrent explained that the rare Rafflesia species is a barometer of the health of the ecosystem. Once gone, he said, it would mean man’s source of food and other sustenance is either dead or dying.

Closer view showing the diaphragm
showing the floral opening

Closer view of the perigone lobe showing the pattern

Close-up view of the two anthers with pollen in a sticky fluid

Flower bud in a later stage of opening

Flower bud with scales still unexpanded

Side view of the disk from a dissected flower

Top view of the disk showing the processes

View from inside the flower

Section 27 of Republic Act 9147 prohibits the collection, possession, transport and trading of all Rafflesia species listed as a critically endangered species under Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order # 2007-01 on pain of 6 to 12 years imprisonment, or a fine of 100,000 to 1M pesos.


  1. i can't believe that kind of flower do actually exist..,,its incredible and unbelievable... another thing to be proud of...:-)


  2. I could not believe it myself that a flower of such size actually exists, much less found in the foothill village of Maragusan, Davao del Norte!

  3. Biggest Discovery! as in biggest!

  4. hello me resort bah or park kung san makikita ang mga raflessia? any ways to get there?

  5. Rafflesia manillana has also been sighted in Mt. Irid-Angilo Watershed in the boundaries between Rizal, Bulacan and Quezon po

    1. Hi JP. It amazes me no end to learn that such a rare flower exists in our midst and am glad that more are found in Luzon, particularly in the foregoing places you mentioned.

      Thank you for the info.

  6. i been searching for this flower. and now i know its real name, thanks for the info
    philippine tourist spot

  7. Articles and content in this section of the website are really amazing.Great ideas indeed! I will surely keep these in my mind!

    flower philippines & philippine flowers

  8. i wonder what months are they in bloom? will be going to davao oriental next week and i want to check it out. thanks!


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