The notoriously stinky Rafflesia, or corpse flower, is at risk of extinction.
More than 40 species of Rafflesia, the massive flower that famously smells like rotting meat to attract flies that eat flesh, are at risk of extinction thanks to deforestation in Southeast Asia. Twenty-five of the 42 species are already classified as critically endangered, while another 15 are endangered. A new study suggests that more than two-thirds of these plants aren’t served by active conservation efforts, according to the Guardian.
Why is the flowers’ endangerment concerning?
The Rafflesia are beautiful, mysterious flowers that vary in shape and size — one species, the Rafflesia Arnoldii, is recognized as the biggest flower in the world, spanning over 3 feet across. Scientists are far from fully understanding the organisms and what they can teach us about ecosystems.
The extinction of plant species creates danger far beyond the aesthetic and scientific loss of a particular flower. According to PBS, the extinction of just a few species can drastically change an ecosystem by disrupting the balance of the food chain and pollination, thereby threatening every living creature within a particular ecosystem.
What’s being done to save the corpse flower?
“We urgently need a joined-up, cross-regional approach to save some of the world’s most remarkable flowers, most of which are now on the brink of being lost,” Dr. Chris Thorogood, an author of the study from the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, told the Guardian.
Scientists are actively working to protect the various at-risk species. The researchers are seeking to get all 42 varieties of the plant to be listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which currently recognizes only one of the species.
Scientists are also working to protect the flowers’ habitats and study the plants for greater understanding. Additionally, some scientists want ecotourists to embrace the plant so that conservation benefits the local communities where the plants live. “Rafflesia has the potential to be a new icon for conservation in the Asian tropics,” forester Adriane Tobias said.
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