Do you know what flower,
“Smells more repulsive than any buffalo carcass in a state of advanced decomposition?”
Can grow to 1 metre in diameter?
And is named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who discovered it in Java in 1818?
The answer is Rafflesia and on Tuesday, January 23rd, the Wharfedale Naturalist Society had a very entertaining and beautifully illustrated lecture on Pat Hutchinson’s travels in Borneo in search of this elusive flower. It took Pat two trips to Borneo and a lot of travelling to different regions within the island before she found this flower in bloom. Travelling was not straightforward and the temperatures and humidity made it very uncomfortable. En route though she was able to visit historic sites and identify and admire an abundance of flora and fauna. The audience saw wonderful photographs of trees, vines and ferns and some common and rare orchids that are to be found in the Kinabulu Park. The origins of the delicacy birds nest soup were also discussed and illustrated with photographs from a visit to the Gomantong Caves. The main ingredient for this soup is the spittle of nesting swifts which is collected and sold for $1,000 a kilo. She showed photographs taken of orangutans at a Rehabilitation Centre and in the wild who make a new sleeping nest every night.
Finally, Pat on her second trip found out about a Rafflesia in bloom (they only flower for five days and this one was on day 3) and she managed with a guide to locate and photograph it. After flowering the plant rots and the seeds are dispersed by tree shrews and ground squirrels. The audience shared her excitement at having at last found the Rafflesia flower but also her enthusiasm for all the other flowers, animals and insects she had seen along the way.
The next meeting will be on February 13th where there will be two lectures, “Climate Change-frequently asked questions.” And,“Recovery of Salmon to the River Ure Basin.”