This 'Monstrous' Flower Attracts Victims by Mimicking Smell of Rotting Corpse

A "monstrous" flower mimics the smell of a rotting corpse in order to attract victims, according to footage shown in David Attenborough's latest BBC series, The Green Planet.

The footage, shot in a rainforest in Costa Rica, shows the parasitic rafflesia, or the corpse flower. It is the biggest flower in the world and measures at around 3.2ft across.

Footage shows the process of a rafflesia flower pollinating. It's smell and appearance fools other animals into thinking it is a dead animal.

In order to survive, a male rafflesia attracts flies into its center by disguising itself as a rotting corpse, both in sight and smell. The parasitic plant than attaches pollen to the fly's back, where it will be carried to a female.

Wales-based botanist and plant conservationist Dr. Trevor Dines, was not involved in the series, but commented on the clip. He told Newsweek: "The spectacular appearance of the Rafflesia carrion flower on the forest floor was particularly stunning ...The buds take many months to swell and open, looking like inflating cabbages as they do.

"This amazing method of pollination is not that uncommon though. A small succulent called Stapelia is often grown as a houseplant and, while it's flowers are just a few inches across, they are flesh coloured, hairy and emit the same stench of rotting flesh to attract flies as Rafflesia."

The footage from The Green Planet, a series focusing on how plants thrive in different environments, begins by showing the outside of the "monstrous flower," which shows a bud with no leaves or a stem.

In the clip, Attenborough says that this particular flower is a male. "After about five years, the bud finally opens into a monstrous flower," he said. "It now has only a day or so in which to be pollinated before it starts to wither. Its petals are the color of blood."

As the flower opens its petals, ready to be pollinated, the camera dives inside to show a close-up of its skin.

Rafflesia
A stock photo shows a corpse flower. It is one of the largest flowers in the world. mazzzur/Getty Images

"Their surface is tough and warty. It appears to have fur. Even whiskers and teeth. At first sight, it might be mistaken for a dead animal," Attenborough said. "From its center comes the pungent odor of death."

A birds-eye view of the flower shows what it looks like when fully opened. It shows its blood-colored petals fully opened, displaying its "teeth" in the middle.

Attenborough explains that this smell it is very attractive to carrion flies, which lays its eggs on rotting flesh.

The footage shows a fly being lured towards the flower, and then delving deep inside in search of meat. "The rafflesia has has the fly exactly where it wants it," Attenborough said.

The clip than shows the flower dropping pollen onto the flies back, as it continues to search the plant. It ends with the fly carrying the pollen to a female rafflesia.

The Green Planet is a five part series. Rafflesia appears in the first episode, which focuses on tropical worlds. Other episodes, include Water Worlds and Seasonal Worlds.

Dines said: "What The Green Planet is doing is incredibly exciting. I've been passionate about showcasing our wild flora to TV audiences for decades, trying to show just how incredible they are ... we have to work harder to tell the plants' stories. This is what The Green Planet is doing, using amazing cinematography and new filming techniques to bring their lives into focus."