Friday, May 7, 2010

Raffelsia Blooming!

YAY! At last, I saw the raffelsia in bloom! Did I hear someone shout 'Stinko beauty!'?? That's the reputation the raffelsia has got itself for the rotting flesh attracts insects and flies and carnivorous beetles.

I last saw the rafflesia as a golden -orangey 'cabbage' in the Belum Temenggor reserve in 2006. It was like striking gold! Alas, it wasn't ready to open up. There was to be a waiting period of about 3 days . The guide told us to come back.

Rich ball of gold! - in Royal Belum Temenggor reserve

Worth all the trudging and climbing in the jungle

This time round, at Kobob, Raffelsia Conservation Garden, Ranau, the taxi man, our guide saw a banner announcing Rafflesia in Bloom. It's like announcing a birth - except this is rarer! With no specific flowering season, news like this certainly causes a stir among people hunting for the rafflesia.

So, we descended on the rafflesia. I was already excited . A flower so rare, with only 5-6 days in bloom. Then, it turns black , its glory short-lived.

A lady came out from the house and we signed in the visitors' book and paid a fee to view and take some photos.

Down a path the lady guided us. Then we walked on a hastily constructed plankwalk. There had been a landslip and huge bamboos crashed around 2 raffelsias in bloom. There! She pointed to the rafflesia keithii- sitting safe in the plot of land. Gotcha baby! This is REAL ! - after all the countless images in the media. It was already the 3rd day and already signs of fading life were visible. The petals were slightly curled at the edges and the colour had changed, the lady pointed to our attention. Flies were flying around. But I didn't get a whiff of the rotting smell - ? too early or having to stand a distance away. 'You're lucky to see TWO in bloom close to one another,' the lady hastily added.

The other rafflesia was even further away from our eye view. Luckily it escaped the loose , crumbly earth and the clumps of bamboo that threatened to crash on it. 2 of the 5 petals were not open away from the centre disc as the land disturbance had caused them to flap inwards.

A view from afar is better than none!

On a tetrastigma vine, we saw a bud. It was only about 2 months old? How curious - no stem, no leaves, no roots - the parasitic rafflesia grows on the host vine . It starts life as a dark brown bud and finally , the crowning glory of a 5 petalled flower develops. If you think waiting for a human baby to develop in its mother's womb is long. Think again. The rafflesia from bud to bloom takes 12 months! It weighs a hefty 9 kilo!

To the untrained eye, it could be anything! - a precious little rafflesia in bud.

Raffelsia keithii was dicovered by Henry George Keith, former conservator of forests, North Borneo. It is endemic to Sabah and is proudly recognised as the state flower. Rafflesia was first named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore Island. The latter led an expedition in Indonesia and chanced upon it with his naturalist friend, Dr Joseph Arnold in 1818. So it came to be, the genus is named rafflesia and the specie , arnoldii. And there are 18 species in this part of the world which includes Borneo, Sumatra, Philippines, Thailand and West Malaysia.

Definitely seeing 2 rafflesias in bloom was one of the highlights of my Sabah visit. Hope you will have as much or more luck than me . One thing is for sure - the natural habitat has to remain for us to glorify the rafflesias.

More visitors viewing the rafflesia from the plankwalk.


  1. To witness a raflesia bloom is really a once in a lifetime experience. You are so lucky!

    Have a great weekend!

  2. wow what an exotic plant- fascinating read and pictures!

  3. Thanks for your lovely comment.
    I have never seen such a beautiful plant. Its amazing and unique. I appreciate for your wonderful post.

  4. From what I am reading about that "flower"??? I am glad I am viewing it on the computer.

  5. Wow, it must have been truly amazing to see the rafflesias in bloom! I would have absolutely loved to have been there, you're so lucky given that they have such a short and irregular blooming period. Wonderful photographs and descriptions, this post makes me want to get my suitcase and get on the next plane!

  6. Hi
    Autumn Belle, you're right - felt really good to witness rafflesias in bloom :)))

    magicdarts,thanks! kudos to the excellent community work you're doing.

    Babli, glad you enjoyed the post. it's an amazing plant and I was v. lucky to have seen it.

    Lucy, blog posts are so wonderful - we get to share with everyone:)

    Sam Liu, thanks! so many things we enjoyed in Kinabalu National Park makes this holiday unforgettable :)) Yay! AirAsia flies from Stansted to Malaysia - so, pack your bags!

  7. Beautiful bloom, and I enjoy reading the information. I haven't seen this before either.

  8. My first visit and I'm so glad I found you this is an amazing show of mother nature and more of what it offers us if only we take time to see it thanks for sharing.

    Dorothy from grammology

  9. Hi
    Bananaz, for all its reputation, I didn't get a whiff - too far!!

    Icy BC, it's so rare a flower, I'm glad I saw it with my husband.

    Dorothy, thanks for coming by!do drop in again. the rafflesia never ceases to amaze nature lovers.

  10. You are so lucky to be able to view the bloom of the biggest flower on earth.

    Happy Mother's Day to you.

  11. Great post, full of things that I never heard of before. I love learning something new about the world we all live in.

  12. Hi
    alicsg, thanks!Happy Mother's Day to you too!

    Pam, this visit to Sabah was superb.There's much, much more to discover.

  13. You saw one?!!!
    So lucky, such a wonderful visit you had. :)

  14. Hi
    Indrani and Lay Hoon aka mescrap, do you think I will strike a lottery soon??? ha! ha! have to go out and buy one.

  15. What a strange flower! Thank you for the informative post.

  16. I've seen that flower on television but never in nature myself - what a lucky lady you are! :)

    Have a great week ahead!


  17. Hi
    Laura in Paris, yes,strange and elusive!

    BLOGitse,thanks, am really lucky indeed! looking forward to a laugh fest performance and a neighbourhood high -tea this saturday. Hope you have a good week ahead too:)

  18. Oh my you are so lucky , I always wanted to see Rafflesia but there aren't any in Singapore. I heard it smells like rotten corspe , is it true ?

  19. Great opportunity for you! I will pass on the aroma though.

  20. So beautiful and unusual. You are very fortunate to have seen it and captured it in a photo. I liked learning about it. Thanks for the info.

  21. Hi
    A Full-Timed Housefly,I was lucky indeed! Pity! I missed the smell -we had to stand a distance away for safety reasons as bamboo had collapsed near the rafflesias.

    Rosey,the next time round I think I'll be lucky and get my dose of the aroma of a decaying rafflesia!!!

    Rae, yes, the rafflesia made our 2nd day in Kinabalu National Park memorable.

  22. I hope to be lucky enough to see a blooming rafflesia some day! Very informative post.

  23. It's very interesting how it is parasitic. A neat bloom no matter what though.

  24. Nice story and photos! I enjoyed this post and am hoping to see one someday, too.^^

  25. Hi
    Maya,thanks! do hop over again.

    tina, certainly one huge, rare bloom to get people excited!

    Sashindoubutsu,thanks!I'm told when a rafflesia is in bloom,there are banners to say so. Definitely the guides will be one of the first to know.Hope you'll be lucky too:)

  26. Wow. I have never heard of a rafflesia. It's a really strange looking flower. And the way it looks when it's not open, I would't even have known that was a bud. It looks like some sort of waxy blob. (For lack of a better description!) Fascinating!

  27. Hi
    Suzanne Casamento, you're right - it looks like a waxy blob!the flower is so rare and precious.

  28. Dear Keats,
    I left you a long comment here but I guess it went for a walk in cyberspace.

    I love the photos of the different stages of the Rafflesia's development and I am happy you had such a memorable trip to KK.

    When I went on the Royal Belum expedition with MNS in Oct 2006, we saw the Rafflesia azlanii, R. kerii, and R. cantleyii. They didn't smell of anything. There was a tiny tree frog swimming in the centre of one of the blooms, as it had been raining and water had collected in the centre. The trails were treacherous and slippery but the trip was worth it.

  29. Hi
    ~Covert-_Operations'78~, thanks so much for coming by again. We had a wonderful time. Now, it's thinking of another part of Sabah to explore.

    WOW! You were really lucky to have seen these rafflesias.No smell?? yeah, it was slippery when were there too and I remember shouting out warnings 'be careful!' as if I was the guide!! definitely Belum Temenenggor is another gem.We must preserve at all costs. One more post coming up on Sabah and then I'll move on.So much to tell the world:))

  30. Tks 4 sharing. This is another thing I have to see from my bucket list.

  31. Hi
    Thomas C B Chua, Wow! nice to have a list and take it off when done! Lucky you.


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