rafflesia bud

The rafflesia plant draws pollinators with its putrid smell.

Giant Freeloader

The rain forests of Indonesia are home to another big and stinky flower. The rafflesia plant has the largest‑known individual flower in the world. It can grow up to 1.1 meters (3.5 feet) wide, and it can weigh as much as 25 footballs.

The rafflesia is a parasite. It has no leaves, roots, or stems. It finds another plant―a host plant―to attach itself to. Then, for years, it uses this plant to supply nutrients and water. Eventually, a bud forms and grows into a flower. The flower only blooms for a short time. It looks like a large red bowl surrounded by large flaps of rotting meat. Like the corpse flower, it smells bad―like dung and dead animals. Yet, this is the perfect scent to attract the flies that pollinate it.


You can watch tortoise‑shell bamboo grow before your eyes.

Rising Giant

The sun rises and shines down on a green bamboo plant. The plant stands about a meter (3 feet) high. By day’s end when the sun sets, this plant will be 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall! It is the tortoise‑shell bamboo, and it is the fastest growing plant on Earth. At a growth rate of 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) per hour, you can actually watch it grow.

Bamboo plants are giant, woody grasses. When they are buds, their cells are tiny. They don’t grow new cells. Their cells just expand. The expanding cells allow the bamboo stalk to grow taller.

The bamboo is just one more example of a plant that goes to extremes. Killer seeds, trees that sting, leaves that hunt, and flowers that smell like a dumpster are just a handful of ways plants have adapted to survive.