Sunday, April 19, 2009


Things may grow larger here in the South, thanks to an extended growing season, but nothing tops these botanical monsters. Rafflesia, more commonly known as the world's largest single flower, can have a diameter up to three feet, Unfortunately, it also carries the aroma of rotting flesh! Native to Southeast Asia, the Rafflesia is related to violets, poinsettias, passionflowers, which it slightly resembles. Thanks to the foul odor, though, you may be grateful that its flowers bloom only once a year, for approximately 5-7 days.

Victoria amazonica is the largest water lily in the world. Because of it's size, a special network of ribs on the underside helps it to lay flat. The pattern of these ribs is said to have inspired the network of metal girders around which the Crystal Palace was built for Britain's Great Exhibition in 1851. Sharp spines protect the pad from herbivorous fishes. Being pricked by one is painful due to its toxicity. This photo was taken in 1902 at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Note that the girl is standing on a plank laid across the leaf, to more evenly distribute her weight!

The incredible Corpse Flower (titan arum) takes the title of the world's largest influorescence. So named because this plant's scent is of decaying flesh, it was found in Indonesia in the late 1800's. It can weigh 170 pounds and reach 10 feet. As it flowers so rarely, botanical gardens fortunate enough to have a specimen build huge viewing events around it. But bring a mask!The world's largest leaf is though to be that of the Raffia Palm (Raphia regalis). Native to tropical Africa, it has leaves that can reach up to 80 feet (yes feet!) long. The Fairchild Botanical Garden in Florida has a stunning specimen in their collection.

Here's my own giant find: "Century Plant" (Agave americana) found on my garden travels this past fall...and it's not nearly finished growing!

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