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Rafflesia panchoana on Mount Kemalugong within the Philippines

Chris Thorogood

RAFFLESIA is a parasitic plant that spends most of its life cycle inside its host, a tropical vine, rising solely to bloom. Its flowers are the biggest on the earth, spanning as much as a metre. Regardless of this, little is thought about its life cycle, and it’s virtually unattainable to develop.

A Rafflesia relative, Rhizanthes deceptor, within the hill forests of Bengkulu, Sumatra

Chris Thorogood

Half of the Rafflesia species identified to science have been described previously 20 years, but most have since come near extinction. This can be a plant in peril. On a latest journey within the Philippines, I noticed a inhabitants decimated to make approach for crops. As is usually the case, a smallholder farmer was accountable – someone simply making an attempt to make ends meet.

A view of Bengkulu

Chris Thorogood

What’s the answer? Defending habitats is one of the best safeguard. However this solely works if we all know the place Rafflesia happens within the first place. Typically, we don’t. Area people motion teams are essential on this respect to watch populations.

Displaying the dimensions of Rafflesia arnoldii in south Bengkulu

Chris Thorogood


Past in-habitat conservation, most crops will be protected in seed banks or botanic gardens. However Rafflesia is an intractable parasite. The one botanic backyard to have cultivated it efficiently is in Bogor, Indonesia, the place Rafflesia-infected vines are grafted onto new, uninfected rootstocks.

Chris Thorogood, Freddie Chavez, Adriane Tobias and Pastor Malabrigo Jr with their Rafflesia graft within the Sierra Madre mountains within the Philippines

Chris Thorogood

In 2022, my colleagues Pastor Malabrigo Jr and Adriane Tobias on the College of the Philippines Los Baños and I went to Bogor to discover ways to develop the ungrowable. Again within the Philippines, we tried the nation’s first ever Rafflesia propagation in a protected forest reserve. If our R. panchoana graft is profitable, we could have created a template for propagating Rafflesia species getting ready to extinction within the Philippines.

Chris Thorogood (@thorogoodchris1) is deputy director of the College of Oxford Botanic Backyard and creator of Pathless Forest

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