Instantly after arriving in Khao Sok, we were informed this was the place of the "Big Flower", the buahpoot (บัวผุด) or Rafflesia kerrii - it's the ensign of the park.
When and where ever we went searching for information on this plant, the information did differ. That may be caused by the money one can make showing it to tourists. So apparently, every family keeps their "own", secret Rafflesia. So some said, they were all gone for this season (mid-January), some said, it would flower next week and others were able to show two open flowers. Some of it may be misunderstanding, as we found the English of the official guide a bit poor. Anyway,
the plant is a parasite that feeds on Tetrastigma lianas. All one will ever see of it, is the flower - no leaves, no stems, no roots, no nothing. Rafflesias are dioecious and more than that, they probably were scarce all the times. So the first mystery about them is how the females fertilize. Then, the seeds need to be distributed to the next host and then must infect it. All of that is not yet known and requires more investigation. To do that, one first will have to find a way that would not be likely to kill host and parasite right at the beginning. But by genom analysis, it was discovered, their closes relative is the spurge family - with their characteristic very small flowers...
Anyway, Rafflesia kerri is the only species of the genus in Thailand and produces flowers up to some 60 cm diameter. Another Rafflesia, Rafflesia arnoldii, produces the absolutely largest flower with 90 cm diameter and 11 kilogramms weight.
When Sue and I went off to see the flower with an official guide, the track wasn't far, but pretty exausting. And as announced, the flower was not yet open, it would have taken it some 2 or 3 more days. As a kind of comfort, we had a lizard sitting on the bud to make the picture more impressive. The diameter of the bud was some 25 cm. Others were in different states all around, so they are pretty likely to flower all year 'round.
I would have liked to see one in full bloom, but went on to Phuket 2 days later. Sue stayed and visited another specimen that was much easier to access than the first one. It had one fully developed flower (see top), one that was nearly gone and some more buds, too.
© 3 pictures Sue Reid