Rafflesia arnoldii is a parasitic plant, without roots or leaves. It is the largest individual flower on earth. It has a very strong and horrible odour of decaying flesh, earning it the nickname “corpse flower”.
The lifespan of the flower is just 48 hours.
The main body of the plant resides inside the host plant. The only visible parts are the flowers, which burst through the host plant’s bark as compact buds, and later the fruits. The flowers are up to 1 m in diameter, and their flesh is reddish-brown with white spots. Each flower is either male or female and consists of five lobes inserted on a cup-like structure. In the centre of the cup is a column with a disk. The anthers (male parts) or styles (female parts) are situated underneath the disk. The fruits are berries with minute seeds.
It is likely that only damaged roots or stems of a new host can be infected by seedlings of Rafflesia. The foetid smell of the flowers attracts carrion-flies (of the genera Lucilia and Sarcophaga). The pollen adheres to the backs of the flies, which do not seem to receive any reward from the plant.