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The largest flower in the world

Rafflesia
This is the seventh in a series of more in-depth posts on our trip to Borneo. February 16

Have you seen "The Secret Life of Plants" with David Attenborough? I remember him squatting next to a large maroon flower on the jungle floor - a Rafflesia - the largest flower in the world. I never dreamed that I would actually see one in bloom when I watched the episode on PBS. But we did!

Rafflesia - It grows in primarily in the eastern states of Malaysia; Sabah and Sarawak. We had hopes to see it but it was only going to be by luck. We knew our best chances would be either Poring or Gunung Gading in Sarawak. The plant is a parasite that grows on a vine called Tetrastigma which is related to grapes. The Rafflesia lacks leaves and roots and is totally dependent upon this vine. The bud looks like a cabbage and takes about 9 months to eventually bloom. The bloom will open and last about 7 days until it turns black. The flower consists of 5 petals and sits directly on the jungle floor. It can measure over a yard across in size. The center contains spikes which are the flowersand it is fertilized by flies. To attract the flies, it produces the smell of rooting meat. The scent attracts the flies which pollinate the plant.


Rafflesia


We had heard from the couple we talked to at the Mt. Kinabalu botanical garden that there was a Rafflesia in bloom along the road to Poring Hot Springs. We asked them how many days it had been in bloom. It had only been open two days. Wow! That means if we drove up there the following day it would have been in bloom for only 4 days. It would be in prime condition. They told us to look for a sign "Rafflesia Bloom" just before the village of Poring.


Sign along the Poring Road

Lily produced another great breakfast. We sadly said "Goodbye" and headed off to Poring. We descended to Kundasang and headed towards Ranau. Ranau is one of the bigger towns in the area but the road only skirted the edges of the town. We turned off and headed back towards Mt. Kinabalu and Poring. We were much lower in elevation and it was very warm and humid. The houses in the area were interesting - many of the balconies had railings made of dark colonial Queen Anne style. Many of the buildings were a mix of stucco, wood and brick. You could tell that sections were constructed at different times and with different material.

We kept an eye out for the Raffesia sign. We were almost to the village when we saw it. We drove forward for a while and saw no other signs. That must be it. So we turned around and went back.

Three villagers were sitting on the side under an umbrella with a small stand. We asked them how much. They wanted 20RM. We said to much and negotiated 15RM per person. That was probably still too much but this is the one opportunity for the family/village to make a little extra revenue. The older Malaysian women led us along the trail for just about 1/4 mile until we came to a bamboo enclosure. There it was - Rafflesia.

Rafflesia

Rafflesia on the forest floor

Rafflesia

Snap... Snap... Snap... We took our photos and that was it. It was kinda a let down after all the build up and anticipation.

We drove up to Poring. Hot springs are the main attraction of Poring. We were going to return to KK so we already had decided not to visit the hot springs. We arrived just before 11am so we headed to the Orchid Conservation Center which was only open for an hour or so. The center houses the largest collection of orchids native to Sabah. Next to the Orchid center were the tropical gardens - a small zoo-like area. I found this area kinda depressing. There were several cages mostly empty - but a few - with birds. We did get a chance to see a herd of Sambar deer.

Poring orchid conservation center

Orchid Conservation Center at Poring

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum


Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Sambar Deer at Poring


Sambar Deer

The other areas of interest at Poring are the butterfly garden and the canopy walk. We thought about doing one or both of them but they were about a 30-50 minute walk from the parking area. It was already past noon and we had a 3 hour drive to return to KK. I didn't want to do any more hiking so got a soda and relaxed for a bit before starting the drive back.

Most of the way back was sunny except for a sudden rainstorm just past Mt. Kinabalu. In 3 hours we returned to KK and called to have the car picked up. It was an early night for us since we had to be up at 4:30am for our 7:00am flight to Latah Datu.

Here are a few more pictures from our day.

Rafflesia

Rafflesia

Rafflesia

Rafflesia

Mangosteen and Snakeskin fruit


Mangosteen and Snakeskin fruit

Orchid

Fern fiddlehead

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Paphiopedilum sp.

Poring orchid conservation center


Comments (14)

That blog entry was a feast! What an incredible flower!

Holy smokes, that flower is incredible. I think you were lucky to see it in person. All your photos are wonderful.

What a fascinating flower. Isn't it funny how often we feel let down when something we're hoping to experience finally does? It is amazing that you saw one when you consider how few Americans have experienced that.

These are photos I have been waiting for, ever since you mentioned that you have seen the largest flower in the world. WOW!

WOW!!! That must have been amazing seeing this incredible flower in person. I have also been waiting to see these photos. Thanks so much for posting them. Great photos. Love the one of the little green fern.

Ohmigosh, Marta!! That "largest flower in the world" is awesome! Your close ups of it are just amazing. As Leslie said, all the photos are a feast for the eyes. Thank you!

Palma:

Wow, those are amazing flowers. Who knew? Sorry you were disappointed, but that is a big flower! The inside looks like a big mushroom. (My mind goes straight to food.)

More gorgeous photos! I almost missed them. That large flower is amazing.

You have wonderful photos and commentaries. Great post for the country of my birth.

Why did you choose to visit Borneo?

Ann - thank you for your comments. We loved Borneo and especially Sarawak. We decided to visit Borneo mainly to see the interesting plants and wildlife. We also loved the people and diverse culture. We want to return again.

jezreel:

who own that?

Marta's reply - I believe it belongs to the village family whose property it blooms on.

Alex Green:

Hi I saw that largest flower, Rafflesia arnoldii which was huge and around more or less 1 meter in its diameter. Then I had gone for Canopy Walk which was hypothetical to be a track walking path. Then the 2 different waterfalls. Bathe within the Japanese-fashion baths. I took a look at Butterfly Farm. Following url provides the information on "Things to see at Poring" http://www.expeditionasia.net/poring-malaysia.html

Wow....great photos you have here. I just got back from Sabah 2 weeks ago but unfortunately, no Rafflesia blooms by the the time I was there. I will keep on going to Borneo until I can witness the Rafflesia with my own eyes. :)

In the mean time, thanks for sharing all your pics. Great!

JK:

Hi Marta - Absolutely great photography! It almost felt like I was looking at the Rafflesia flower itself in person! Thanks so much for posting this trip on your blog. Best Regards. JK

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