As we climbed Arman pointed something on the floor. Two buds if Rafflesia were finding their way out through the woddy vine Tetrastigma, the one that Rafflesia parasites (an important vine to protect so that Rafflesia is not extinguished). At the side of the buds, two dead Rafflesia, of a small species which I don't know, they looked quite particular and I was so insanely excited that I started taking pictures like crazy, of which of course none of them are good (it's like newborn baby pictures, they are almost always bad because the father who usually takes the picture is so excited they can not keep the camera still!!!). We continued climing and Arman screamed "you are so lucky, today first day of blossom!", and there it was, Rafflesia arnoldii siting in the ground, like a foreign colourful rubber toy just sitting on the ground. In front of it two more R. arnoldii, one which had 10 days of booming and was already brown and a bud that will open in about 3 months. Yes I was the luckiest woman in the world today.
Kingdom: PlantaePhylum: Anthophyta
Subphylum: MagnoliophytaClass: MagnoliopsidaOrder: Rafflesiales
Rafflesia arnoldii is a non-photosynthetic plant which the only way can exist is by parasiting the Tetrastigma vine. It absorbs all its nutrients and grows inside of the vine until it eruptions as a bud.
The flowers are separate sexes, in fact the one I saw today and that you see in the picture according to the local guide is a male, as the smell is not very strong. The other flower, that was older and now looks brown, was a female. We could see the ovary of the flower a bit swollen, and this is why he thought this was a female. I really have no idea if this is correct. The smell of them is not strong at all, in fact, I forgot about the smell until I was very close to it and even then I couldn't smell a thing. I put my nose in and smelled for a minute I think, the smell is like something that is rotten the word in Spanish is "rancio", like water which has been sitting for a while and starts smelling funny, but it's not strong at all. So AnaK, don't worry! the smell isn't that bad !!! The petals of the flower are rubbery, thick, and floppy, it really looks like a toy!
I took many many pictures, I didn't want to leave the place, I was so excited, how on Earth I made it here to see this fantasy creater by nature? Isn't it the most amazing and beautiful mystery of life that such organisms exist? How can a parasite be this beautiful, thank you Tetrastigma for existing!
I decided to leave, but as I walked down I couldn't stop thinking about all my Biology friends and classmates, and I will tell all of them when I see them that they NEED to come to see this, as a biologist is an obligatory dream to fulfill. This whole trip to Sumatra enlightened me the hidden adventurous, exploratory and biologist soul I have, that I had been loosing or ignoring for the past few years. I am a biologist, I am in love with nature, this is the love of my life, is my true adoration. Without nature I don't exist, I don't have the power to live, to create, I just don't have the fuel.