plants and animals

Gigantic corpse flower’s tiny relative smells like coconuts



Editor and Artist
The genus Rafflesia is widely known for at least two reasons—its gigantic bloom and repulsive stench. One newly discovered member of the group is the smallest of its kind and gives off a fruity fragrance.

Rafflesia arnoldii, a species endemic to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, is notable for having the largest individual flower on Earth with unpleasant corpse-like smell. Having no observable leaves, stems, or roots, the entire genus of Rafflesia is known to parasitize the vines of the grape Tetrastigma.

The latest addition to the genus, however, defies all sorts of expectations. At 9.73 cm (3.83 inches) wide on average, R. consueloae, described by Edwino S. Fernando and his team from the University of the Philippines, is the smallest known Rafflesia species. It also lacks the distinctive foul odor of its relatives, as its fruit smells like coconut meat instead. With its peculiar characteristics, R. consueloae is thought to interact with different kinds of pollinators and seed dispersers. The researchers have also recorded at least two species of rodents feeding on its fruit, presumably playing an important role in the plant’s life cycle.

Only two small populations of the species are known in Luzon Islands, the Philippines, separated about 2 km (1.2 miles) apart from each other. Considering its limited range, follow up research and protection might be critical to its survival as the area itself is threatened by hunting and forest fires that happen during the dry season.