Most species of 'world’s largest flower’ threatened with extinction: study

Most species of the famous giant Rafflesia flower, which has long captured the imagination with its enormous spotted red petals, are now at risk of extinction, new research warned Wednesday.

Rafflesia is actually a parasite, and lives on tropical vines in parts of Southeast Asia, producing the largest flowers in the world.

It is an enigma, its flowers appearing unexpectedly, and botanists have had little success in propagating it outside its natural environment.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one species of flower is currently classified as „endangered”.

To better understand the plant and its conservation status, an international team of botanists studied 42 known Rafflesia species and their habitats — primarily in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

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They said the plant is more at risk than previously known due to rapid degradation of its forest habitat and inadequate conservation strategies and conservation plans.

„We estimate that 60 percent of Rafflesia species face a serious risk of extinction,” the researchers wrote in the study, published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Plants, People, Planet.

Some species are at risk of extinction without scientific knowledge, the study said, urging more research into the unusual plant.

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„We urgently need a joined-up, cross-regional approach to save some of the world’s most remarkable flowers, many of which are now on the brink of being lost,” said Chris Thorogood, deputy director of the University of Oxford’s Botanic Gardens and a study. Author of the book.

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The plant is believed to grow in very limited areas, which research indicates is particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction.

It highlights several bright spots in conservation efforts, including successful breeding at a botanical garden in West Java, Indonesia, and sustainable ecotourism around the plant in West Sumatra.

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Last year, countries pledged to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.

Repeated studies have warned that the twin threats of climate change and human-caused environmental destruction are dramatically reducing biodiversity worldwide.

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