World’s Largest Plants Up Close and Personal

Can you guess which plant this is?

Remember the guess-what games where you see close-ups of everyday objects and you have to guess what it is? Well, this is one of those. But because we’re not talking about everyday objects, we’ll give you a few clues. We’re only talking about plants. Think smelly (for some) and large (for all). Oh, and the picture above does not show the inside of a mouth. Any ideas? Read on for astonishing insights into the plant world.

Image: Troy Davis

This is an inside view from the same plant into the outside world. The plant was not dissected or otherwise harmed; the snap was taken with a micro camera. Looks like a plant cocoon, doesn’t it?

Our mystery plant is the world’s largest single flowering plant with a diameter of one metre (39 inches) and a flower weight of 10 kg (22 lb)! Because of their strong smell, which reminds one of rotting meat, they’re also called “corpse flowers.” Carrion flies love it and get inspired to transport pollen from male to female flowers.

Ready for the answer? It’s the Rafflesia arnoldii! For more details about this fascinating plant, read our October article.


Here’s a close-up of our next mystery plant. Looks like corn on the cob on top and a spiky hairbrush at the bottom, doesn’t it? Hint: this plant has the same nickname as the previous one.


Fruit of the mysterious plant

Okay, one more picture though it might be a bit misleading. This is the plant’s fruit, which contains two to three seeds. There’s actually a stem at the bottom which can’t be seen very well here.

Here’s the mystery flower in all its glory. This beauty is a native of the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra, Indonesia. Its blooming stalk can reach a height of three metres (ten feet) and one metre (three to four feet) in diameter. Like the Rafflesia, even this plant emits a strong, repulsive odour to attract pollinators like carrion and flesh flies, which is why both plants are also nicknamed “corpse plants.”


Image: saw2th


This picture of the collapsed gigantic flower reminds one of a weird designer chair, doesn’t it?

Ready for the answer?

The plant is the Titan arum (amorphophallus titanum).

What is white, green and leafy?

Moving on, this next close-up looks like strands of white thread, but the green leafs on the right are pretty typical and should be a dead giveaway.

Right, it’s a palm tree but not any old palm tree.


Flowering Talipot palm at Foster Botanical Gardens, Honolulu, Hawaii

This is the Talipot palm (corypha umbraculifera) and, with heights up to 25 metres, it’s one of the largest palms in the world. It also bears the largest cluster of flowers on a single stem – 6 to 8 metres long. This remarkable palm flowers only once in its life, when it is 30 to 80 years old, and dies after fruiting.


Images: Xavier Metz (left), Palmtalk (right)

Because this next plant is a very recently discovered species, here are two pictures of its flowers (left) and seeds (right). Any ideas?


Image: hduc


The Tahina spectabilis is as self-destructing as the Palipot palm; it flowers only once in its 100-year-lifespan and then dies. It grows to a proud height of 20 metres (60 feet) and can have leaves up to 5 metres (16 feet) long. As the tallest in its region, Madagaskar, it should have stuck out but was only discovered in 2007, and then only by chance. Says William Baker, head of palm research at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew: “It’s a species that is so significant from all sorts of perspectives, it’s kind of embarrassing as a botanist that we didn’t find it until now.”

Now, last but not least, only one more picture that looks quite unspectacular. Posidonia oceania is a flowering marine plant of the seagrass species. It is found around the Mediterranean coast and southern Australia. In 2006, a huge clonal colony – meaning of a single ancestor – of posidonia oceania was found off the island of Ibiza. With a length of 8 km (4.3 miles) and 100,000 years old, it may easily be the world’s largest and oldest clonal colony.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7