Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rafflesia, Amorphophallus Flowers To Be Promoted As Botanical Treasures

Bengkulu, which is dubbed "The Land of Rafflesia", is set to host an international symposium on Rafflesia and Amorphophallus flowers, the worlds rarest and largest flowers, in September 2015. 

"Bengkulu has been chosen as the host city because the Bengkulu forest is home to Rafflesia and Amorphophallus flowers," researcher of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Sofi Mursidawati said in Bengkulu on Oct 3, 2014.

The symposium, to be organized jointly by LIPI and the Bengkulu administration, was originally planned to focus on Rafflesia, but later the organizing committee decided to also include Amorphophallus, because much of the public cannot distinguish between Rafflesia and Amorphophallus flowers.

Discovered by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and British botanist Josepth Arnold in Bengkulu in 1818, Rafflesia is a parasitic flowering plant with no visible leaves, roots, or stem.

When in bloom, the Rafflesia emits a foul odour, similar to that of rotting meat, which gives this flower its local names of corpse flower or meat flower. This odour attracts insects, such as flies and carrion beetles, which transport pollen from male to female flowers.

The Rafflesia can only be seen when it is ready to reproduce. At this stage, a tiny bud forms on the stem of the vine, which develops for a period of nine to 12 months and resembles a cabbage. This cabbage-like bud will open to reveal the massive five-petaled flower, which remains visible for about one week. 

The unique Amorphophallus titanium, commonly known as titan arum or the "corpse flower", is a large, fast-growing plant in the Aroid family. Few of these plants exist in cultivation and they bloom rarely and only under special conditions. 

On the extremely infrequent occasion that a titan arum comes into flower, the intense, foul odor, emitted from a tall spike of small, crowded flowers, lasts just a few days. 

One of the objectives of next year�s symposium is to promote Rafflesia and Amorphophallus as botanical treasures, said Sofi, who is also the chairperson of the symposium organizing committee.

Bengkulu Province is one of few habitats of the gigantic Rafflesia species that are found only in southeastern Asian forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Rafflesia is the official flower of Indonesias Bengkulu province, Sabah state in Malaysia, and also Surat Thani Province in Thailand.

The Bengkulu administration is currently compiling a map of the Rafflesia habitats in the province and promoting the flower species to attract more tourists. 

A number of young men in Manau Sembilan village, Padang Guci, set up a Rafflesia bengkuluensis preservation group to help protect its habitat.

They decided to form the group after visiting the habitat of the worlds rarest flower and noticed there were some blooming flowers and tens of buds, said Nopri Anto, coordinator of the group, in early April 2014.

"This is part of our commitment to preserve Indonesias rare flora and fauna," he asserted.

In 1978. the International Union for the Conservation of Nature categorized Rafflesia as ""vulnerable, endangered and interminate." 

Four species of Rafflesia exist in Bengkulu forests. They are Rafflesia arnoldii, gadutensis, hasselti, and bengkuluensis.

Other existing Rafflesia species include: Rafflesia azlanii, Rafflesia cantleyi, Rafflesia baletei, Rafflesia manillana, Rafflesia banahawensis, Rafflesia keithii, Rafflesia hasseltii, Rafflesia gadutensis, Rafflesia kerrii, Rafflesia leonardi, Rafflesia lobata, Rafflesia micropylora, Rafflesia mira, Rafflesia panchoana, Rafflesia patma, Rafflesia pricei, Rafflesia rochussenii, Rafflesia schadenbergiana, Rafflesia speciosa, Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, Rafflesia tuan-mudae, Rafflesia aurantia, Rafflesia verrucosa, Rafflesia meijeri, and Rafflesia lawangensis, according to information posted on 

Four other species - Rafflesia borneensis, Rafflesia ciliate, Rafflesia titan, and Rafflesia witkampii - remain uncertain as to whether they are growing locally.

Of 32 Rafflesia species, 17 species are found in Indonesia, particularly on Java and Sumatra Islands, 10 in the Philippines and eight in Malaysia, Dr Joko R Witono of the Bogor Botanical Gardens Plant Conservation center was recently quoted as saying by Republika daily.

Four of the 17 species have been successfully grown in Indonesias largest botanical garden, located in Bogor, which is about 60 km from Jakarta. They are Rafflesia arnoldi, Rafflesia patma, Rafflesia meijerii, and Rafflesia tuan mudae.

In their habitat in Bengkulu forest, at least 39 Rafflesia flowers had bloomed during the January-October period this year, according to the Bengkulu Society of Rare Flower Lovers (KPPL).

"There were 39 Rafflesia flowers that have bloomed so far this year, mostly from the families of Rafflesia Arnoldii dan Rafflesia Bengkuluensis," KPPL Coordinator Sofian Ramadhan said here recently.

At present, one Rafflesia Arnoldii flower is in full bloom in the Taba Penanjung sanctuary. The worlds largest flower has attracted many people wishing to see the special site.

Most Rafflesia flowers in Bengkulu are found in the Bukit Daun protected forest located in Kepahiang District, and Taba Penanjung in Central Bengkulu. Forest areas in Seluma and Kaur districts also host Rafflesia flowers.

In general, Rafflesia Arnoldii flowers are found in Central Bengkulu, Kepahiang and Seluma, while Rafflesia Bengkuluensis are in Kaur.

"We predict there are more Rafflesia flowers in full bloom, but we have not been able to monitor each of them," he said.

Forest area encroachment has threatened the existence of the rare flowers, according to Sofian. 
The planned international symposium on Rafflesia and Amorphophallus will focus on the preservation of the rare flowers, he said. (Antara)

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