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Sunday, September 10, 2023

Distinct Species of World's Largest Flower Discovered in Kalinga - Rafflesia Banaoana

Photo Courtesy || Cris Thorogood

Cordillera - Botanists from the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have made a significant discovery in the world of botany by reinstating a species of Rafflesia, known for housing the world's largest flowers. This achievement is detailed in a recently published paper in Phytotaxa.

The species in question, Rafflesia banaoana, had previously been mistakenly identified as another species, R. leonardi. Through meticulous examination of previously overlooked characteristics, the scientists have conclusively demonstrated that these two species are distinct entities. This finding elevates the total count of Rafflesia species in the Philippines to fifteen.

Adriane Tobias, a forester and Rafflesia expert at UPLB, stressed the importance of careful observation of previously unexamined characteristics and ecological factors to avoid the oversight of similar but separate species.

According to the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum website, Rafflesia banaoana was initially documented by Professor Pastor Malabrigo Jr. in 2010, who was introduced to the plant by the Banao Indigenous Cultural Community in a remote forest in the Kalinga Province of northern Luzon in the Philippines. The species was named in honor of this community. The Rafflesia banaoana is an exceptionally rare flower, growing up to half a meter in diameter, and is known for its unpredictable and infrequent appearances.

The joint team from Oxford and Los Baños has been actively researching this enigmatic group of plants since 2019. They have conducted numerous expeditions across Luzon in the Philippines, as well as in Java and Sumatra, Indonesia, in their quest to study Rafflesia.

Dr. Chris Thorogood, Deputy Director and Head of Science at Oxford Botanic Garden, expressed the privilege of being part of this crucial work in collaboration with UPLB, emphasizing the pressing need to understand the diversity of these extraordinary plants, especially in the face of habitat destruction and species extinction.

The team plans to continue their collaborative efforts with scientists across Southeast Asia to further enhance our understanding of species limits, ecology, and evolution in the world's largest flowers.



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