Rafflesia Arnoldi– The world’s largest and rarest flower is from the jungles of Southeast Asia. The rafflesia arnoldi can reach a diameter of up to three feet and weigh as much as fifteen pounds. This heavy flower is pollinated by beetles and flies. It has no roots, leaves or stems and the disembodied blossom grows only as a parasite on the vines of another plant.The large single flower has no chlorophyll. The huge fleshy, fungus like petals are reddish-brown spotted with white. Very little is known about the rafflesia arnoldi because it is difficult to travel deep into the dense rainforest. It has been impossible to duplicate its environment in which it lives therefore it has been unattainable to grow it in confinement. When the flower is ready for reproduction it gives off a potent stench of decay to attract its insect pollinators. The flowers can be smelled long before they are seen. This rare flower is near extinction because of the destruction of its habitat, the rainforest.
Water Lilies– The royal, or giant, water lily is one of the wonders of the plant world. On the Amazon River, their buds begin to open in the morning and by mid-afternoon are fully opened, staying open all night. Among all the blossoms, only one flower opens at a time. The huge leaves of the water lily can reach up to six feet across and are strong enough to support the weight of a child. Water lilies are probably the oldest group of flowering plants. The earliest known fossilized pollen originated from one of these plants about 140 million years ago.
Bromeliad Plants– Bromeliads claim their home on tree branches. These types of plants are called epiphytic plants; flowers that cling on to other plants for support. The Tillandsia is a rootless bromeliad, a true “air” plant that lives on the nutrients in moist air. The bromeliad makes its home on the branches using their roots as anchorages only and not to take nourishment from their host.
Moving Flowers– Plants do not have a nervous system, but they are capable of movement. Their rudimentary sensitivities can cause reactions to environmental factors such as light. This is called tropism and the movements are called tropism. Sunflowers are especially “phototropic”, growing in response to light. A field of sunflowers will follow the sun as it moves across the sky during the day. Keeping their “faces” to the sun ensures that the flowers mature, are pollinated and ripen their seeds. At night, the sunflower stems slowly return to their natural upright position. The individual sunflowers in a row will move at slightly different speeds, but overall will follow the same track.
Century Plants– The Saguaro cactus, Carnegia gigantean, takes about 150 years to grow to a height of 36 feet. Young plants grow very slowly and may not bloom for 25 years. The saguaro’s habitat is the Sonoran Desert of California, Arizona and nearby Mexico.The largest saguaro has more than 5 arms, and is about 200 years old.This cactus has surprisingly shallow roots for its height and width. It is the home of the Gila woodpecker and the red-tailed hawk, among other wildlife.