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Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
Gunung Gading is home to the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia, which can grow up to one metre in diameter. When in bloom the flower gives off a nasty smell which attracts flies and other insects. The rafflesia has no specific season but the rainy season provides better blooming frequencies. It takes nine months to mature and flowering lasts only 4 or 5 days before dying.
Owing to the rafflesia’s rarity and brief flowering period, timing (and luck) are important. The park staff usually know when a plant is about to bloom. Visitors can check with the park HQ (Tel: +60 82 735144) or the National Parks and Wildlife Booking Office in Kuching (Tel: +60 82 248088) to find out if any plants are about to bloom or already in bloom. Although flowers generally bloom throughout the year, November, December and January can be regarded as the peak flowering season as the frequency of blooms is high.
Seeing a blooming rafflesia is certainly the highlight of a trip to Gunung Gading, but the Park and the whole Lundu area are well worth visiting anyway. The rugged mountain peaks that make up the Park provide a scenic backdrop to the nearby town of Lundu, and the nearby beaches at Pandan and Siar. Gunung Gading also has some enjoyable walks and a challenging jungle trek.
Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It contains approximately 28 species (including four incompletely characterized species as recognized by Willem Meijer in 1997), all found in Southeast Asia, mainly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It was first discovered by Louis Deschamps in Java between 1791 and 1794, but his notes and illustrations, seized by the British in 1803, were not available to western science until 1861. It was later found in the Indonesian rainforest in Bengkulu, Sumatra by an Indonesian guide working for Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition.