Rafflesia“ Big is beautiful” Dr. Khalid Rehman Hakeem Post Doc. Researcher Faculty of Forestry, UPM
Who am I ?Post doc Research Scientist Universiti Putra Malaysia Serdang, Darul Ehsan, Selangor-Malaysia-43400 www.upm.edu.myACADEMIC PROFILE: PhD (Botany) Jamia Hamdard (www.jamiahamdard.edu), with thesis title as“ Proteomics and Nanobiotechnological approach for the improvement of Nitrogen use Efficiency (NUE) in Rice”in 2011 MSc. (Environmental Botany), Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi in 2006 (First Division) MSc. (Ecology & Environment) Sikkim Manipal University of Health & Technological Sciences, Gangtok in 2005 (First Division)Research publication (Publishing Career starts in 2011) Papers: 20 (some under review) Books: 07 (Published) 05 (Under process) Book Chapters: 10 Visit my website: khalidhakeem.weebly.com 2
Unlike other parasites that are important to study due to theeconomic loss they cause to important crops, Rafflesia causeseconomic benefit through ecotourism: thousands of people go toSabah (Malaysian, Borneo) and other parts of Malaysia annuallyhoping to see Rafflesia blooms (Nais & Wilcock, 1998).
Introduction• The Rafflesiaceae are leafless, stemless, and rootless nonphotosynthetic parasites that live embedded in host plants.• Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It contains approximately 28 species (including four incompletely characterized species as recognized by Willem Meijer in 1997), all found in southeastern Asia, on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Thailand and the Philippines• Rafflesia was found in the Indonesian rain forest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition. It was discovered even earlier by Louis Deschamps in Java between 1791 and 1794, but his notes and illustrations, seized by the British in 1803, were not available to western science until 1861
• The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. It is an holoparasite of vines in the genus Tetrastigma (Vitaceae), spreading its absorptive organ, the haustorium, inside the tissue of the vine. The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower. In some species, such as Rafflesia arnoldii, the flower may be over 100 centimetres (39 in) in diameter, and weigh up to 11 kilograms (22 lb).• Even the smallest species, R. baletei, has 12 cm diameter flowers. The flowers look and smell (when ready for pollination) like rotten body, hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower”.• The foul odor attracts insects such as flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Most species have separate male and female flowers, but a few have bisexual flowers. Little is known about seed dispersal. However, tree shrews and other forest mammals eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. Rafflesia is the official state flower of Indonesia, the Sabah state in Malaysia, and of the Surat Thani Province, Thailand.
Belum Valley is located, midwayRoyal Belum State Park, Perak between the East and West Coasts. The nearest towns are Grik in Perak and Jeli in Kelantan which are connected by the scenic East-West Highway. The Royal Belum State Park is partial of a incomparable Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve, one of a largest blocks of timberland in Peninsular Malaysia. With 117,500 ha of area, it was announced as a Royal Belum State Park by Sultan of Perak on 31st Jul 2003. This pleasant bliss is abounding with extraordinary FLORA and FAUNA, stoical especially of primitive pleasant rainforest, that stays one of a largest inexperienced timberland pot with many stream systems, and tiny grassland areas, some deserted rural plots, and Temengor Lake …. a vast synthetic lake.
• The name "corpse flower" applied to Rafflesia can be confusing because this common name also refers to the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) of the family Araceae.• Moreover, because Amorphophallus has the worlds largest unbranched inflorescence, it is sometimes mistakenly credited as having the worlds largest flower. Both Rafflesia and Amorphophallus are flowering plants, but they are only distantly related. Rafflesia arnoldii has the largest "single" flower of any flowering plant, at least in terms of weight. A. titanum has the largest "unbranched" inflorescence, while the talipot palm (Corypha umbraculifera) forms the largest "branched" inflorescence, containing thousands of flowers; the talipot is monocarpic, meaning the individual plants die after flowering
Malaysian species• Species native to Malaysia include Rafflesia pricei, Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, Rafflesia azlanii, Rafflesia keithii, Rafflesia kerrii, Rafflesia hasseltii, Rafflesia cantleyi and Rafflesia arnoldii. R. arnoldii boasts the world largest single bloom.• Some endemic Malaysian species, such as R. keithii, begin blooming at night and begin to decompose only two to three days after blooming. The time from bud emergence to flowering is six to nine months.• Male and female flowers must be open simultaneously for pollination to occur, hence successful pollination and fruit production is quite rare. In addition to habitat loss, these reproduction limitations are contributing factors to why many species are endangered.• R. keithii is found along the eastern slopes of Mount Kinabalu in the Lohan Valley of Sabah. Rafflesia tuan-mudae is endemic to only the Gunung Gading National Park of Sarawak.
Rafflesia arnoldii is rare andfairly hard to locate. It isespecially difficult to locatethe flower in forests as thebuds take many months todevelop and the flower lastsfor just a few days.Conservation status:How many of these plants still survive is unknown, but as the remainingprimary forests of Borneo and Sumatra disappear, it can be assumed that theirnumbers are dwindling. Many are known to be nearing extinction. SomeEnvironmentalists are developing ways to recreate the species environment inan effort to stimulate their recovery. This has proved unsuccessful so far. Stepsare also being taken to conserve the forests of Sumatra and Borneo.
The Life Cycle of a Rafflesia Plant• Reproduction – The Rafflesias life cycle begins when the parasitic growths on the plants vine root form small buds that resemble cabbage.• Bud Growth – Rafflesia lacks leaves, stems and chlorophyll, and is incapable of photosynthesis. Instead, the buds grow by living off of the plants vine, draining nutrients and water from it.• Flowers – In about nine months, the bud bursts, revealing an enormous, five-petaled flower. The reddish-brown flowers give off a pungent odor similar to rotting flesh, which attracts insects for pollination. Rafflesia plants are unisexual and most often produce either male or female flowers at a single site. To succeed at pollinating the plant, insects must visit both male and female flowers, which are usually not in close proximity to one another.• Fruit – The fruit has smooth flesh that contains numerous tiny seeds. Once fruit and flower have both reached maturity, which takes five to seven days, this marks the end of the plants life cycle.• Seeds – The smell of the fruits dead flesh attracts indigenous animals. The animals distribute the seeds, continuing the plants life cycle.
Challenges to Studying Rafflesia• First, individuals grow entirely embedded within the body of the host plant that they parasitize (Kuijt, 1969).• Second, Rafflesia is rare in occurrence and can only be found in relatively remote lowland forests of Southeast Asia. In this region, much of its habitat has been converted to farm land or timber concessions and in some parts of its range, the buds are harvested and sold for their purported medicinal qualities.
• Third, even once Rafflesia individuals become visible as flowers, these only survive a few days before decomposing. All of these factors make it difficult to even find Rafflesia sites and even when they are known, the sites are often not protected so there is no guarantee that they will exist in subsequent years.
Latest Research• Floral Gigantism in Rafflesiaceae Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial, nuclear, and plastid data showing that Rafflesiaceae are derived from within Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family. Most euphorbs produce minute flowers, suggesting that the enormous flowers of Rafflesiaceae evolved from ancestors with tiny flowers. Given the inferred phylogeny, it was estimated that there was a circa 79-fold increase in flower diameter on the stem lineage of Rafflesiaceae, making this one of the most dramatic cases of size evolution reported for eukaryotes.
Many Questions…….????• Why so host specificity ?• Polyploidy study (if any) ?• Which nutrients they are taking from the plants ?• Exact role and ecological importance ?• Lot of Molecular biology pending