You're right... Oh! Hi there! Squeaks and I are deciding what flowers to plant in our garden next.
We're thinking of planting some daisies, maybe some sunflowers — lots of big, beautiful blooms.
Squeaks wants really big flowers, the biggest in the whole world!
But… I'm afraid the biggest flower in the world would be really unusual to have in our garden, Squeaks — because unlike other flowering plants, it lives inside another plant!
This is the biggest flower in the world: Rafflesia arnoldii.
It lives in Indonesia, and its flowers are almost a meter across.
That means you'd struggle to fit one through your front door!
They're also very heavy for flowers.
They can weigh up to about seven kilograms — roughly the weight of a bowling ball! That's a big flower.
Well hold on, Squeaks.
Before you make any decisions, you should know they're also very smelly.
Some people even call them "corpse flowers"... because they smell like rotting meat.
That's a great question, Squeaks! Why does this flower stink so much, when most flowers smell nice?
Well let's think about it for a moment. How might smelling good help the flower?
Right! Smelling good attracts pollinators!
Pollinators are animals like bees that help flowering plants make seeds by moving their pollen from one flower to another.
Many pollinators are attracted to sweet smells because they eat sweet things, like the nectar flowers make.
Well, this flower is also trying to draw in pollinators — but it's not after bees.
Its powerful, stinky smell attracts flies.
These flies like to eat dead animals, so they go into the flower thinking that stinky smell is some yummy, old meat.
And while they're inside investigating the stench, they get the flower's pollen on them!
They carry this pollen with them when they leave.
And that means, when they check out another flower, they leave some of it behind.
So the smell is the plant's way of getting the flies to move their pollen around!
Oh, what do the leaves look like?
Well, that's the weird thing.
This flower actually doesn't have any leaves, or roots, or even a stem that we can see.
That's a really good question!
All plants need water and light to grow.
Most flowers use their roots to suck up water from the soil, and their leaves to collect light from the sun, so they can make food for themselves.
But this flower doesn't have those parts. So how does it live and eat?
Well… it's what scientists call a parasite — a living thing that steals from other living things to survive!
Like, you might be familiar with fleas.
They're parasites that feed on the blood of animals, including people.
Their bites often leave itchy, red bumps on your skin which are really annoying.
In the case of Rafflesia, it steals the water and food it needs from another plant.
And it does this by growing inside it!
Rafflesia seeds are really tiny, so they can get into small scratches on the roots or stem of the vines they live inside.
And once in there, it steals what it needs to grow.
It takes food the vine made from sunlight using its leaves and water the vine sucked up from the soil using its roots.
So the Rafflesia doesn't need leaves or roots of its own.
And that means it can put all of its efforts into making massive flowers!
When the flower buds are ready, they burst out of the vine to bloom.
The flowers do hurt the vine — kind of like how flea bites don't feel awesome.
But they don't kill it.
Parasites need the living things they steal from, so they usually don't kill them.
So what do you think, Squeaks?
Do you still want to grow the biggest flowers in the world here?
Oh, that's true.
The vine and Rafflesia arnoldii both grow really far away, in a very different habitat, than what we have here at the Fort.
Maybe we can grow something else that would remind us of this awesome and smelly plant.
That's a great idea.
We can research and find out if there are any plants that are parasites living near the Fort, and maybe try growing some of those.
Plants have so many amazing ways to get what they need.
Some grow in the ground, while some grow out of other plants.
And some smell sweet, while others put up a big stink.
I wonder what you could learn about the plants in your area by looking closer!
Maybe you could start a journal to record all the different flowers you see, and write down what they smell like.
And as always, if you want to keep exploring with me, Squeaks, Jessi, and all the rest of our friends, make sure to click the subscribe button.
We'll see you next time here at the Fort.