The Corpse Lily

In the wild, where can you find the corpse lily, the flower that produces the largest bloom in the world?

And the answer: Indonesia.

The largest bloom in the world

Commonly known as the corpse lily, the Rafflesia arnoldii is a rare flower found in the rainforests of Indonesia. Growing to almost a meter across, it's a smelly and parasitic plant, with no visible leaves or stem, and attaches itself to a host plant to obtain water and nutrients.

As the largest bloom in the world, the corpse lily has evolved to be more than beautiful: its reddish hue, warm temperature and intense odor are meant to attract insects that would feed on corpses. Dung beetles, flesh flies, and other carnivorous insects find the corpse flower to be the main attraction – they are all pollinators who are tricked into thinking the large bloom is another decaying prey.

The corpse lily only emits odor for an extremely brief window of time. In fact, the bloom only lives long enough to attract pollinators – about 36 hours maximum. After the bugs have flown away with pollen on their legs, the flower collapses. Somewhere else in the forest, the process starts all over again.

With months and sometimes years of growth ahead of it, there is no underestimating the rarity of a blooming corpse lily. These magnificent flowers only bloom once in their lifetimes, and often require storing energy in their massive stalk (or "corm") for up to seven years. Oftentimes, the bloom is a popular event for tourists at local botanical gardens. While corpse lilies don't grow naturally outside Indonesia, human cultivation has made it possible to experience the rotting smell from various locations in the United States.

Check out the corpse lily in its natural habitat below.

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