This week’s issue of Science has this flower on the cover. Or one like it. This photo is identified as Rafflesia arnoldi-hoyre, whereas Science identifies its featured flower as Rafflesia tuan-mudae. It’s about a meter across, and it’s found in Borneo.
The new finding reported in Science is that the rafflesias are part of the Euphorbia family, which contains some fairly bizarre members. The particular interest is that most euphorbias have tiny flowers, in contrast to this enormous one. The article doesn’t say much about why the flower sizes diverge so much. That’s the kind of thing I always wonder about, but any answer is likely to contain large doses of speculation.
I have its little cousin in my yard. If you click on that last photo of spotted spurge, you can see that the one-millimeter flowers have something of the same shape, although probably not so warty.
A number of euphorbias are houseplants, and I have a couple of those too. Pencil plant and those “cactuses” that have milky sap are euphorbias. I had one of the latter that grew to about eight feet and was menacing the piano. When I had the piano tuned recently, I cut it back and rooted some of the cuttings. If you plan to undertake that kind of project, use gloves. The sap contains oxalic acid, which irritates your hands something fierce. Believe me.