Rafflesia arnoldii and Rafflesia arnoldii: close up by Tamara van Molken

Everyone sees plants as passive and benign. But, actually, plants are hugely manipulative. Plants have to do everything animals do. They have to cope with predators; they have to find food; they have to find a mate. They have to do all of that sitting still.

One of the largest flowers in the world, Rafflesia, tricks its pollinator by pretending to be a slab of rotting meat. So this flower is large, sort of red, with sort of lumps and bumps on it that look like rotting pustules. It also releases the most awful stench, like a rotting corpse, and heats itself up to the same temperature as a corpse. Flies are tricked, very successfully, by this flower’s impersonation, so they lay their eggs on the flower and get covered in pollen as they do.

—from “The Secret Language of Flowers,” a talk by molecular biologist Dr. Heather Whitney at TEDxSalford.

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