“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land....”
The largest flower in the world is a bright red-orange color and, according to its DNA, is related to the poinsettia. That relationship might make you suspect that the world’s largest flower would be beautiful. But you probably wouldn’t want the flower, called the rafflesia, growing in your garden.
The largest of this species has flower buds the size of a basketball. When it opens, the flower is three feet across. Its petals not only look like big slabs of meat but the flower smells like rotting meat. The result is a rather ugly flower that you wouldn’t want around. That bad smell attracts the carrion-eating insects that pollinate it. The flower looks so strange that when they were first discovered, scientists debated whether they were flowering plants or fungi. If this is not all strange enough, rafflesias have no true roots or leaves. They make their living as parasites growing on other plants. This makes them so difficult to grow that only four botanical gardens in the world have done it successfully.
The rafflesia’s beauty lies not in its appearance, but in its amazing design features. Little about its design seems to be helpful for survival, as evidenced by how difficult it is to grow. This fact, of course, works against evolution’s claim that the living things we see are the survivors of the fittest.
Notes: Science News, 1/13/07, p. 21, S. Milius, “Biggest Bloom.”
Photo: Rafflesia Sumatra, commonly called the “corpse flower.” Courtesy of Ma Suska. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
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