A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but a Rafflesia by any other name would still smell like rotting flesh.
While in Sabah over the weekend, we had a chance to see the world's
ugliest largest flower in bloom. The Rafflesia is Sabah's national flower and seeing it in bloom is a popular tourist attraction in Borneo. The flower smells horrible, but the scent is intended to attract insects which help with the flower's pollination.
The particular species we saw is called Rafflesia keithii, named after Henry George Keith, a former conservator of forests in Sabah. Keith's wife, Agnes Newton Keith, was an American author who wrote several books on Sabah. The title of her first book Land Below The Wind has become Sabah's unofficial motto.
Locals charge tourists to see Rafflesia flowers in bloom on their property.
To give you an idea of this flower's size, Jeff is standing a few feet away in the photo. This bloom was probably about two feet in diameter. Some species of the Rafflesia can get up to three feet in diameter.
The Rafflesia was named after Sir Stamford Raffles and is actually a type of parasite. The flowers typically have five petals, but the one we saw had six. The blooms last only a few days, so it was pretty good timing that we got a chance to see it.