The genus Rafflesia contains approximately 28 species of parasitic flowering plants, all found in Southeastern Asia, mainly Malysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the the Philippines. The genus is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles the leader of an expedition to Sumatra in 1818 who rediscovered the plant first described by Louis Deschamps in Java between 1791 and 1794. Species of Rafflesia have no stem, leaves or true roots but exist totally within the host plant, vines of the genus Tetrastigma. The plant only becomes obvious when the large five-petalled flower bursts from the stem of the vine. The flowers look and smell like rotting flesh which serves to attract its pollinating insects, flies. This is the reason for the commonly used name of ‘corpse flower.’ Most species have separate male and female flowers, but a few are hermaphrodite. The most notable feature of Rafflesia is the size of the flower, the largest single flower in the plant kingdom which may be 1 metre in diameter and weigh 10 kg in Rafflesia arnoldii (there are larger inflorescences made of up many flowers e.g. the Titan Arum).
Rafflesia keithii Rafflesia cantleyi
Although members of the genus Rafflesia are restricted to tropical Southeast Asia there is a close relative which can be found in Mediterranean Europe. This is the genus Cytinus represented by Cytinus ruber and Cytinus hypocistis in Greece. These are altogether less spectacular plants than Rafflesia, but they are also holoparasites growing on the genera Cistus and Halimium in the family Cistaceae. Cytinus was included in the family Rafflesiaceae but is now transferred to the family Cytinaceae.