6 of the Biggest Flowers on Earth

By David DeFranza, TreeHugger

For millions of years, flowers have dotted the landscape. Their simple manipulative evolutionary innovation—using color and scent to trick insects and animals into doing their bidding—has persisted and proven to be highly effective. Today, flowering plants are among the most diverse classes of life on the planet.

Far from the garden varieties, these massive flowers show just how far the adaptations have been pushed.

Rafflesia arnoldii

Among all of the large flowers, Rafflesia arnoldi produces the largest single bloom. Native to rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, the flower can be up to three feet in diameter and has weighed in at more than 24 pounds.

More than its size, however, Rafflesia is known for its scent. Dubbed the “corpse flower,” the large bloom reeks of rotting meat—an adaptation it has developed to attract the flies that help pollinate the plant.

The unusual flower only grows on the tendrils of the Tetrastigma vine, which in turn only grows in pristine rainforest—meaning Rafflesia arnoldii‘s habitat is rapidly disappearing.

Related: 5 Foul-Smelling Flowers from Around the World

Amorphophallus titanum

Bestowing a title for “largest flower” is not always as simple as measuring blooms.

Indeed, Amorphophallus titanum which has an inflorescence that can grow 10 feet in height, is not small by any definition. Unlike Rafflesia, however, this large structure is not a single flower, but rather hundreds of small buds on a single stalk.

Native to Sumatra, Indonesia, the plant remains rare there but is now cultivated in gardens around the world. Still, blooms remain infrequent both in the wild and in captivity.

Like Rafflesia, Amorphophallus titanum attracts pollinators with the smell of rotting meat, meaning that the two flowers battle for the nickname “corpse flower” in addition to the largest flower superlative.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Corypha umbraculifera

Corypha umbraculifera, better known as the “Talipot palm,” is the largest flowering plant with branched inflorescence. This simply means that, instead of budding off a single stalk, the flowers of the Talipot bud from tiny branches attached to the main stalk.

This flowering inflorescence is the largest of any plant in the world, sometimes growing more than 25 feet in length.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pando

Quaking aspen are deciduous trees but they do flower—albeit rarely. Though the blooms, when they do appear, are small, the plant itself can be massive.

Perhaps the best example of this is Pando, a clonal colony of a single male tree that is thought to cover more than 107 acres in Utah. More than 47,000 trees, or stems, sprout from a single root system that is thought to be more than 80,000 years old—making Pando one of the world’s oldest living organisms in addition to one of the largest.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Posidonia

Pando, however, does not match the size or age of Posidonia, a flowering grass that proliferates in the Mediterranean and off the coast of Australia. Like quaking aspen, Posidonia oceanica grows in clonal colonies.

One such colony, discovered in the Mediterranean in 2006, is nearly five miles across and thought to be more than 100,000 years old.

Video: Rachel Sussman Photographs The World’s Oldest Living Things

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Helianthus annuus

Though the world’s largest flowers are often confined to remote rainforests and occasionally botanical gardens, the more common sunflower is—undeniably—a huge flower.

When given room, sun, and ample water, sunflowers can grow 12 feet high and more than two feet in diameter.

Whether common or rare, these giant flowers stand as vibrant—and sometimes smelly—testaments to the diversity of the natural world.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Related:
6 Strange & Scary Plants
10 of the World’s Strangest Fruits
10 World Famous Trees

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