Rafflesia Arnoldi – a stinky beauty in Bengkulu

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Rafflesia Arnoldi has a very strong and unpleasant odor of decaying flesh. (photo: Pramitha Hendra)

IO – Bengkulu possesses a wonder found in no other city in Indonesia, the Rafflesia Arnoldi flower. 

Bengkulu’s fertile land is a natural place for an exotic plant like Rafflesia Arnoldi to grow. It was in fact first discovered in 1818 in the tropical forests of Bengkulu, along the southwestern coast of Sumatra, by a guide who worked for the English Dr. Joseph Arnold, as he tracked the Thomas Stamford Raffles expedition. 

Therefore, the name given to the gigantic Rafflesia Arnoldi is a combination of the family names of the two English adventurers. Until today the city of Bengkulu carries the nickname “Bumi Rafflesia”. 

To appreciate the beauty of this flower, you could head out into the Bengkulu forest. Starting from the city of Bengkulu you travel one hour by private vehicle up into Kepahiang Regency, until you arrive at Liku 9, Taba Penanjung Protected Forest. The trip along the winding roads through the Bengkulu forest is a picturesque one. This time I had the opportunity to be able to witness firsthand the beauty of this flower. Although the weather was a bit cloudy, it did not become an obstacle for me to study this rare flower. 

Ilham, one of the Rafflesia Arnoldi’s conservationists from the Community of Love to the Peak (CSP), said that this particular plant had only just bloomed about three days previously, opening up to one meter in diameter. In fact, the frequently of blooming cannot be accurately predicted; it can even blossom up to three times. 

“We protect this plant from vandalism or theft, because it is a rare species,” Ilham confided. 

He accompanies visitors who want to see this plant. What he worries about is those taking pictures, lest they touch this flower. “This plant should not be touched, because it is very sensitive. It might die quickly,” he explained. 

Please note that this plant will last around two weeks after blooming. And after the time is up, it will rot and die. (Pramitha Hendra)