Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A new carrion plant: Rafflesia consueloae

Rafflesia is a small but very interesting genus of plants. It contains only 28 species, all found in southeastern Asia. The flowers of most of them look and smell like rotting flesh and this foul odor attracts insects such as flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers.

Rafflesia flowers are unique in that they are entirely parasitic on the roots and stems of specific Tetrastigma vines in the forests and have no distinct roots, stems, or leaves of their own. They are entirely dependent on their host plants for water and nutrients.  The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is a five-petaled flower and in some species (Rafflesia arnoldii) such a flower may measure over 100 cm in diameter, and weigh up to 10 kg.

Today's new species has an average diameter of only 9.73 cm which makes it a dwarf among all the other giant flowers. Also, unlike other Rafflesia flowers it smells like young coconut meat, according to the researchers. The name honors Ms Consuelo ‘Connie’ Rufino Lopez, lifelong partner of industrialist Oscar M. Lopez, and a plant lover in her own right. Both delight in culturing, growing and tending their garden which includes more than 100 species of trees, orchids and other plants. With her demure but strong personality, traits which Rafflesia consueloae possess, she provides the inspiration for Mr Lopez’s pursuit of biodiversity conservation in the Philippines.

For the experts: A new species of Rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae) from Luzon Island, Philippines, Rafflesia consueloae Galindon, Ong & Fernando, is described and illustrated. It is distinct from all other species of Rafflesia in its small-sized flowers, the upright perigone lobes, and prominently cream-white disk surface that is often devoid of processes. Its small-sized flowers, with an average diameter of 9.73 cm when fully expanded, make it the smallest of the largest flowers in the world.

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