The names of the flowers in the tropical forest include familiar and very unfamiliar monikers. Though some varieties have been adapted for use in the home garden, others are exotic and larger than life. Whether recognizable or new, names of tropical forest flowers consist of plant life that thrives in warm, moist environments and that produces visually stunning colors and shapes.
Rafflesia arnoldii was named after the men who discovered and studied it: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and Joseph Arnold. Considered the largest flower in the world, according to the Library of Congress Everyday Mysteries, this rare flower is found in Indonesian tropical rain forests. Weighing up to 15 lbs. and measuring 3 feet in diameter, rafflesia arnoldii is a parasitic plant. For water and necessary nutrients, this flower parasitically steals them from host plants. With a dark orange, speckled color and a depressed center, this tropical flower emits an odor reminiscent of rotting meat that attracts pollinating insects.
The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), also called the corpse flower, comes from the Latin words "amorphos" meaning without form or misshapen, "phallos" meaning penis and "titanum" meaning giant. Also found in the tropical rain forests of Indonesia, titan arum is referred to as "corpse flower" due to its terrible odor of rotting flesh that, like the rafflesia arnoldii, attracts needed pollinating insects. Growing to a height of up to 12 feet and a weight of up to 170 lbs., the titan arum produces an inflorescence, or clustering, of hundreds of petal-less flowers, according to the Gustavus Adolphus College.
Common to the tropical forest, the name orchid represents more than 20,000 species of flowers. Though you probably recognize the name, orchids grown in the home are often temperate orchids grown in soil, but many tropical forest orchid flowers are epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants without acting as parasites. Orchids often grow on sides of trees, according to the Space Radiation Lab at California Institute of Technology. One example of a tropical orchid is the moth orchid (genus Phalaenopsis) that is adapted for growth in pots, available in whites, purples, pinks, yellows and greens. The name refers to the shape from the Greek "phaluna" meaning moth and "-opsis" meaning resembling, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. These orchids originate in tropical Asia and tropical regions of the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
- Eastern Illinois University Biology Department: Titan Arum 2010
- University of Arizona Yavapai County Cooperative Extension: Plant Science
- The Library of Congress: Everyday Mysteries--What is the Largest Flower in the World?
- University of Minnesota Extension: The Moth Orchid Takes Off!
- Gustavus Adolphus College: Titan Arum FAQs
- Get an Anthurium to Bloom
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