Borneo is in the news again… the Tenom Orchid Centre at the Sabah Agriculture Park in Malaysia is passing around the cigars this weekend. Thursday morning a worker opening the centre for the day had a shock when he discovered that this extremely rare and bizarre parasitic plant had bloomed overnight. The species has one of the largest flowers in the world, and it is the first time since the park opened 10 years ago that the plant has bloomed. In fact, the flowering marks the first time an attempt to cultivate the plant has been completely successful since it was first attempted in 1929.
Tenom scores a first with Rafflesia bloom
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF EAST MALAYSIA
Tenom: Visitors to the highly acclaimed Tenom Orchid Centre at the Sabah Agriculture Park are in for a rare treat this weekend – the Rafflesia has also been found blooming there and making it the first time the world’s largest flower has been found growing in the district.
Apart from the fully bloomed Rafflesia, another 10 buds have been spotted growing and are expected to bloom in about a month at the same site in the centre. The Rafflesia is of the kethii species, the second largest of the 19 Rafflesia species known. It is also among only three Rafflesia species found in the State. The others are the R. precei, one of the smaller species and R. tengku-adlinii Mat-Salleh & Latiff.
Although only three species are endemic to Sabah, there are eight in Borneo and about 19 species in the world.
This first bloom at the centre, world famous for the conservation of about 300 different native orchid species in Sabah, was discovered by one of its staff after he arrived to open the centre on Thursday morning.
State Agriculture Department botanist, Jain Linton, said the discovery came as a shock after having waited for about 10 years. The host plant (a vine tree) was inoculated with seeds of the Rafflesia at one section of the centre just after the park was officially opened.
The process was done through the initiative of the former park manager Anthony Lamb and former research assistant Herbert Lim, he said, adding the seeds came from Dr Willem Meijer, a scientist who spent about three decades hunting Rafflesia across Southeast Asia.
Jain said the last report on the successful propagation of the Rafflesia via seed inoculation was recorded in the Poring Orchid Centre and Kg Kokob, both in Ranau, in February 2000 by Sabah Parks.
It took them about five years from inoculation to bloom, he said, adding this was a breakthrough because all attempts since 1929 to cultivate Rafflesia had ended in failure.
He said the emergence of the Rafflesia flower at the centre may raise more questions then answers on the cultivation of the flower. “But most important of all is that visitors can enjoy and appreciate this extremely amazing and beautiful flower, apart from enjoying about 300 species of native orchids at the centre.
“For the record, the Rafflesia flower can last only about a week.