May 22, 2024

Another species of the rare and world’s largest flower was recently recorded in Kalinga by local and international researchers.

The biodiversity journal, Phytotaxa published on Sept. 5 a study made by botanists from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and University of Oxford Botanic Garden that reinstated the rafflesia banaoana under the genus of rafflesia, which contains the world’s largest flowers.

The species named rafflesia banaoana, which was found in the hinterlands of Kalinga particularly at the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, was studied further by the Los Baños-Oxford team in 2019 after its initial study in 2010. 

According to the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, the rafflesia banaoana has been confused with another species, rafflesia leonardi but through thorough examination of the plant, it was found out that it has its own distinct characteristic.

The giant flower, which is considered a parasitic flowering plant, is 40 to 50 centimeters in diameter and could grow to half a meter in size. It also emits a foul smell and has reddish-orange color with a warty upper surface, warts teeth-like white spots that are regularly scattered on the flower.

The discovery added to the number of rafflessia species found in the Philippines to 15. The team has been working on the group of plants since 2019, going to several expeditions in Luzon where most of the plants were found, and in Java and Sumatra in Indonesia to study rafflesia.

“The Southeast Asian genus rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae) is famous for possessing the world’s largest flowers. All species are rare or threatened, so understanding taxonomic diversity in the genus is crucial for informing effective conservation practice,” the abstract of the study stated.

The rafflesia banaoana was first documented by Professor Pastor Malabrigo, Jr. in 2010. The Banao indigenous cultural community in Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park (BBNP) showed him the plant. Malabrigo named the species in honor of the Banao community. 

Malabrigo, in his paper published in the Asian International Journal of Life Sciences in 2010, stated that although the BBNP is a protected area, the exact location is very accessible to human disturbance which threatens the endemic and unknown flora. “In light of our findings, we recommend a holistic approach to the conservation of rafflesia in the Philippines,” the researchers stated. – Ofelia C. Empian