Rafflesia – Stinky Flower and One Cool Bloom!

The World’s Largest Flower – Rafflesia

RafflesiaWhen I posted an instagram photo of the Rafflesia flowers that we paid an exorbitant amount of money to visit, everyone bombarded my Facebook with comments.  Apparently everyone has heard of this large, stinky Rainforest flower.

As we drove down the road to Poring Hot Springs, we saw about three handmade signs advertising the famous flower was blooming and which day of the bloom it was.  The sign also said how many minutes it was to walk to viewing area.

These stands are just on the side of the road, or behind someone’s house, or down by the river.  The one we pulled over to had a couple of vans in front of us letting off people, and a few pulled up behind us as well.  The tourists spilled out, excited to see the giant stinker!


We almost changed our mind when we found out how much the locals were charging to see the orange beast.  It was 20rt (about $6 US).  This may be our one and only time to see a real Rafflesia plant, and I pay for that sort of stuff, plus I like supporting the locals, but boy the price was steep.  Another family pulled up while we were making our decision, and they cut their losses.  Mom had seen a flower before, so she passed, but Dad and daughter paid the price.  We did too!

We covered the short walk, down the hill, over the rickety bridge and to an area signed as a the Rafflesia Garden.  It looked like a permanent structure.  The family that owned it was pulling in a fortune.  It was one of those “communing with nature” moments.  Just us and 30 other tourists, mostly Japanese.

The Rafflesia plant was named after Sir Stamford Raffles, who is famous for founding Singapore.  It’s an exotic and strange plant, one that evokes a sense of science fiction since it solely exists as a gigantic parasite.  It entirely is dependent on the vine, Tetrastigma.  It only flowers once a year, and there is no specific season so it is hit or miss whether or not a visitor will be there at the right time.



Only growing in a few very tropical places on Earth between the altitudes of 500-700 feet, the Rafflesia is considered endangered.  Along with the extremely limited area, locals believe the flower buds offer some medicinal advantages, and many gather them to administer to women after giving birth. Before the government included them in their Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997,  the locals would clear away the plants as pests.    Therefore, nowadays they are encouraged to protect them and even to build these gardens and viewing platforms and charge exhorbitant prices to see them.  It’s an interesting way to combat the loss of habitat.  Now that they are making money off of them, they are happy to protect them.

The flowers are not just famous for their size, but also their smell.  The only way they are pollinated is by insects that are able to fly between the female and male plants.  They emit an odor of rotting meat to attract the flies, and hopefully that fly has been making the Rafflesia rounds in order to spread the pollen.  This can be a very difficult thing since the plants don’t like to hang out with the opposite gender and all the plants are flowering at different times.  On top of all this the flowers only bloom for about five days, so the time frame is short, short, short.



Have you been to the rainforest of Borneo?  Were you lucky enough to see the Rafflesia?  What did you think?

20 thoughts on “Rafflesia – Stinky Flower and One Cool Bloom!”

  1. I’ve heard about Rafflesia and its notorious aroma but didn’t know that they bloom infrequently and without any seasonality. I agree the price maybe a bit steep but should be worth it there’s only slim window of opportunity to witness them. I hope I have your luck of good timing when I visit Borneo.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever come close to where a Rafflesia is been blooming because I think I would have certainly paid the steep price just to see it. There was a hope that I’d see one in the Cameron Highlands since that’s one of the places where it grows, but I never saw any signs of one anywhere. Lucky you. Was the smell as bad as people claim?

    1. Michele, We really didn’t smell anything. I don’t know if we just didn’t get in close enough or if they sprayed it, but we didn’t smell a thing. I definitely think it was worth our paying the price to see it; we loved it.

  3. Wow, that’s some flower! I’ve never heard of it but I’m glad you showed the last photo in order to get a sense of its size. By the way, I found your blog because you commented on mine…love what I see here, and as a travel enthusiast (although I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like), I’m subscribing to your posts!

  4. I must admit that I’d never heard of the rafflesia so you’ve certainly educated me. It does sound interesting although smelly. It is good that people are looking out to protect now, however with the money involved I suspect it will be flourishing in lots of places in a few years time.

    1. Guy, The plant sure has had some attention lavished on it, but even with the locals paying more attention, it will be hard for a huge comeback due to all the difficulties it faces. We’ll see. We’ll see. We were really happy to get to see it.

  5. Though I don’t envy the stench, it would be really cool to see this in person, I think! We spent quite a bit of time on Borneo, but we didn’t make it into the rainforests and therefore didn’t get to encounter Rafflesia. I do love that Raffles had such an odoriferous plant named after him!

    1. Steph, Raffles and his buddies. He has the overall plant named after him, but his buddies all added their first names to different varieties, eight of them. Hilarious, don’t you think?

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