Many of the rarest flowers on earth grow in the wild in very isolated locations, where the climatic conditions are so specialized that they cannot exist anywhere else. Others are rare because their habitats have been destroyed. Many of the latter are now protected by their local governments. These flowers often have distinctive characteristics and appearances.
Rafflesia (Rafflesia spp.)
Rafflesia are rare, parasitic plants that feature one of the largest flowers on earth. The blooms average around the size of an armchair, according to Web Ecoist. These plants are only found on the island of Sumatra. They are distinctive not only for their large size, but for the unmistakable odor of the flower, which resembles that of rotting meat. The scent is only produced for a short time directly after the flower blooms. These flowers are very hard to study. It is almost impossible to predict when Rafflesia flowers will bloom, as they must be pollinated to bloom. Pollination is difficult, however, because the flowers, which are male or female, rarely bloom at the same time, and even if they do, they are usually too far separated for insects to readily pollinate them.
Camellia "Middlemist's Red"
This variety of camellia is native to China, where it is now extinct. In fact, only two of the flowers are known to be in existence as of 2009. Although they are from the Camellia family, the species is unknown. One is located in a greenhouse in London, while the other is located in a greenhouse in New Zealand. Both specimens are heavily protected and nurtured. The plant located in England was brought there from China in 1804. Since then, it has been carefully cultivated. The flowers are a deep, rose-red color and attract thousands of visitors to the conservatory each year when the plant blooms in the spring.
Snowdonia Hawkweed (Hieracium snowdoniense)
The snowdonia hawkweed is the rarest flower in the world, according to Web Ecoist. This perennial plant features an unassuming, small yellow flower that looks much like a weed or a buttercup, but it is only found in the Snowdonia Valley, located in Wales, United Kingdom. The flower was thought to be extinct in the 1950s, but seven small patches of it were discovered in the valley in 2002.
Corpse Flower (Titan arum)
The corpse flower has the unpleasant distinction of being not only one of the rarest plants in the world, but also the smelliest. The flower's nickname comes from its scent, which is reminiscent of a rotting corpse. Titan arum is a large plant. When not in bloom, the plant has one, tall stem that can reach up to 20 feet in height, topped by a single leaf that is 15 feet wide. When the corpse flower blooms, it sends up a very tall, slender, light green or yellow inflorescence that can be as large as 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide, which is surrounded by a shorter spathe. The spathe, which looks like an upside-down, ruffled umbrella, is deep purple on the inside and green on the outside. The plant blooms rarely--about every 6 or 7 years--and when it does, the flowering lasts only one night, according to Eastern Illinois University. Fortunately, the short blooming time means that the unpleasant smell will only last a short time as well, because the scent corresponds with the opening of the flower's spathes, or petals. Titan arum, like the Rafflesia, is only found in the forests of Sumatra.