World's Largest 'Corpse' Flower Is on the Brink

All 42 species in Rafflesia genus can be considered threatened: study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 2:00 PM CDT
World's Largest 'Corpse' Flower Is on the Brink
Rafflesia arnoldi, one of the three national flowers of Indonesia.   (Wikimedia Commons/SofianRafflesia)

Rafflesia arnoldi is the world's largest single flowering plant, with a bloom more than three feet wide. Dubbed "corpse flower" or "stinking corpse lily," it's also incredibly smelly due to the foul odor—something like rotting flesh—it emits to attract carrion flies for pollination. Unfortunately, a new study finds the iconic flower and most others in the Rafflesia genus, native to the forests of Southeast Asia, are at "severe risk of extinction." Though just one of 42 Rafflesia species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, botanists found 60% of species in the genus meet IUCN criteria to be classified as critically endangered, while all species classify as threatened.

The researchers from the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and the University of Philippines Los Bannos found 25 species are critically endangered, 15 are endangered, and two are vulnerable, according to the study published last week in Plants, People, Planet, per ABC News. The plants, subject to habitat destruction and illegal harvest, are further at risk as 67% of known Rafflesia habitats are outside of protected areas and untouched by conservation strategies, researchers say. The study warns that Rafflesia populations are already very small, with some counting only a few hundred individual plants, and "taxa are still being eradicated before they are even known to science," per

"We urgently need a joined-up, cross-regional approach to save some of the world's most remarkable flowers, most of which are now on the brink of being lost," says study co-author Dr. Chris Thorogood, deputy director and head of science at the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, per ABC. "My hope is that the world's largest flowers will be a powerful new icon for plant conservation." The study notes local communities, particularly indigenous groups, could play a key role in conservation efforts, which could in turn boost ecotourism in Southeast Asia, creating "a win-win situation for both the flower and the people living in proximity to its natural habitats," notes (Read more corpse flower stories.)

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