FunNature & AnimalWhat is the largest flower in the world?

What is the largest flower in the world?

In our most everyday context there are flowers of many sizes, from the huge and showy lilies of more than 20 centimeters, to the tiny yellow and tubular flowers that form the center of the head of daisies, which we mistakenly perceive as a single flower, although in Actually, they are inflorescences.

The inflorescence is a floral structure in which multiple flowers are arranged, either in the form of a raceme , as in the vine or the horse chestnut; in spike , like grasses; in umbel , like the carrot flower; in corymbo, like the elderberry; in flower , like daisies and sunflowers; or in spadix , as in the calla flower. This type of inflorescence is characterized by a large bract, called a spathe —relatively fleshy and white in the cove—, which surrounds the inflorescence, in which the tiny flowers are distributed along a more or less vertical axis. long —in the yellow cove—.

The Ceylon palm, the largest floral structure

If we take into account the complete floral structure , the largest inflorescence is found in the Ceylon palm ( Corypha umbraculifera ) . Native to the island of Sri Lanka and southeastern India, this massive palm up to 25 meters tall produces a massive panicle-shaped inflorescence . The panicles are branched inflorescences, themselves composed of smaller inflorescences.

In the Ceylon palm, the panicle is multi-branched, which in turn continue to divide, reaching up to four branching orders . All of them end in twigs barely six millimeters in diameter, and on each one there is a cluster of eight tiny flowers. It is estimated that each panicle is made up of about 24 million flowers , in an inflorescence that measures more than 8 meters.

The giant ring, the largest unbranched inflorescence

When speaking of an inflorescence that forms a single unbranched unit , such as the calla lily or the sunflower, the largest example is the giant arum ( Amorphophallus titanum ) . This peculiar plant, from the calla family, comes from the tropical forests of Sumatra.

Its structure is vaguely reminiscent of calla lilies —it is the same type of spadix inflorescence—, but with great differences. On the one hand, the spathe is greenish on the outside and red, purple or purple on the inside, with a wavy and irregular margin. The spadix is elongated, pale yellow, with a huge number of female flowers in the lower part, male in the upper part, and sterile at the tip.

This massive and massive structure can exceed two meters; the largest ever observed opened in May 2003, in the botanical garden of Bonn, Germany, and reached 3.06 meters in height .

One of the recently discovered peculiarities about this species is its thermogenesis function. The spadix produces heat , reaching temperatures above 36 °C. This heat production occurs at night, and is probably due to the respiratory activity of the plant.

The giant padma, the largest flower in the world

The inflorescences that have been discussed in this article are really gigantic, but their flowers are actually tiny structures. If it’s the largest individual flower you’re after, you’ll find it in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo, like the giant hoop. Growing on the ground, parasitizing other plants such as the Indian chestnut vine ( Tetrastigma leucostaphylum ), the plant is barely visible unless in bloom. In fact, it has no leaves or roots , it lives almost entirely inside its host.

The bud of the giant padma ( Rafflesia arnoldii ) takes months to develop into a solitary fleshy red flower, one meter in diameter , with a huge dark hole in the center, from whose interior emanates a rotten stench. Inside the cup-shaped cavity, there is a disc with structures reminiscent of the corpse of some animal, and below, are the stamens or styles, depending on whether the flower is male or female.

Despite the large size of its flower, the plant does not have chlorophyll and does not carry out photosynthesis. It feeds on the nutrients produced by the plants it parasitizes.

The two corpse plants

Both the giant hoop and the giant padma follow the same breeding strategy. Its color, texture and smell are reminiscent of dead animals, hence the name they receive in various places, ” corpse plant “.

On the one hand, the thermogenic effect of the giant ring, in combination with its interior appearance —which mimics carrion— and its smell, makes it a perfect trap for beetles and flies, which are its main pollinators. The strategy used by the giant padma is to attract insects to the dark shelter of its cavity, where they will find the pollen so that it can be dispersed.

In both cases, the plants take advantage of the scavenging insects to pollinate themselves, in a clear relationship of commensalism : one of the participants —in this case the plant— obtains a benefit, but the other —the fly— obtains neither harm nor benefit.


Barthlott, W. et al. 2009. A torch in the rain forest: thermogenesis of the Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum). Plant Biology (Stuttgart, Germany), 11(4), 499-505. DOI: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2008.00147.x

Kew. s. f. Rafflesia arnoldi R.Br. Plants of the World Online.

Tomlinson, P. B. 2006. The uniqueness of palms. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 151(1), 5-14. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8339.2006.00520.x


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