The Corpse Flower
My fascination for flowers appears to have been present for as long as I can remember, and this allurement was reinforced when my family and I lived in a rural, or rather, pristine setting for several years during my childhood.
The place seemed enchanted and one of my fondest memories was getting “lost” under giant trees and wandering off farther than the boundaries my parents were comfortable with. Aside from standing still to let a snake pass me "unnoticed" and allowing him to demonstrate his sense of humour by slithering its way over my foot, there was also something else in those excursions that I looked forward to… and because I was only a child, the seemingly tall-tales of my expeditions were too incredible for adult ears that sometimes it was better to withhold tales of my secret adventures. It was more exciting in that manner anyway.
One of the outlandish stories was about the giant flower. I was a little girl so I could claim that the single flower that magically sprung annually at the feet of the tall trees was this big; *stretches arms wide* The mysterious thing about it was that when I came back for it the next day, it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it withered like those short-lived midnight flowers, or perhaps I wandered in the wrong direction, but I only saw it for only a day, once a year.
Circa twenty years later, I read about the Rafflesia and searched for photos… when eureka! The flowers in the photos had the same burgundy and velvety petals that were enormous enough to only exist in fairy tale forests.
Why all of a sudden I recall this account? Valentine’s Day. Its huge petals of deceiving vivid colours that attract so many but when you come very close to it, it has this stench of pagan origin, that superficially beautiful as it is, it is not worthy of symbolizing Love. No, not even this close... *presses thumb and pointer together tightly* …and like the flowers we receive on Valentine’s Day, we cannot preserve or prolong their blooming forever as much as we want to. The next day will be just another wilting day, and what’s left of it will be but a mere memory… and perhaps a few browning petals preserved in a book. *sigh* Love… we can do better than carelessly commemorate or confine it for only a day, once a year.
Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It was discovered in the Indonesian rain forest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition. It contains approximately 26 species (including four incompletely characterized species as recognized by Meijer 1997), all found in southeastern Asia, on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra and Kalimantan, West Malaysia, and the Philippines. The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. It is an endoparasite of vines in the genus Tetrastigma (Vitaceae), spreading its root-like haustoriaflower. In some species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii, the flower may be over 100 cm in diameter, and weigh up to 10 kg. Even the smallest species, R. manillana, has 20 cm diameter flowers. The flowers look and smell like rotting meat, hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower" (but see below). The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as carrion flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Little is known about seed dispersal, however, tree shrews and other forest mammals apparently eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. Rafflesia is an official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, as well as for the Surat Thani Province, Thailand. inside the tissue of the vine. The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower. In some species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii, the flower may be over 100 cm in diameter, and weigh up to 10 kg. Even the smallest species, R. manillana, has 20 cm diameter flowers. The flowers look and smell like rotting meat, hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower" (but see below). The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as carrion flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Little is known about seed dispersal, however, tree shrews and other forest mammals apparently eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. Rafflesia is an official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, as well as for the Surat Thani Province, Thailand.
The name "corpse flower" applied to Rafflesia is confusing because this common name also refers to the Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) of the family Araceae. Moreover, because Amorphophallus has the world's largest unbranched inflorescence, it is sometimes mistakenly credited as having the world's largest flower. Both Rafflesia and Amorphophallus are flowering plants, but they are still distantly related. Rafflesia arnoldii has the largest single flower of any flowering plant, at least when one judges this by weight. Amorphophallus titanum has the largest unbranched inflorescence, while the Talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera) forms the largest branched inflorescence, containing thousands of flowers; this plant is monocarpic, meaning that individuals die after flowering.
Since 2002 there has been a tremendous amount of activity by Filipino scientists who have discovered and named several new species of Rafflesia. Before this time there were two species known: R. manillana and R. schadenbergiana, the latter of which was last seen in 1882 on Mt. Apo in Davao Province on Mindanao Island, but was thought to be extinct.
When confronted with this question from someone who I was romantically linked with a decade ago as remnant red hues of Valentine’s faded yesterday, I was tempted to say “nothing much.” But that would have been lying. So I answered, “there’s always something new and changing about me, but there’s also a little girl inside that’s constant…” and when he sighed in relief because it was the little girl he fell in love with in the first place, I smiled.
The conversation did not mean that I ended up with someone overnight, for I believe we are in love with different people now, but it is a nice reminder that in my core, there’s an unchanging little girl, and no matter how much I try new things or struggle to “improve” as an adult, musically, mentally, or emotionally, the innocent little girl is capable of being loved without all the perks of being a “woman”.
After all, isn’t it the heart and faith of a little child that God looks for in us?