Most flowers are pollinated by bees, or from pollen being blown on the wind from flower to flower. Others, such as night-blooming flowers, are pollinated by night-flying insects, such as moths. A few unusual flowers are pollinated by beetles. These flowers attract beetles primarily with their putrid smell, which often resembles that of decaying flesh. They also attract carrion flies; together, these two types of insects pollinate these unusual-smelling flowers.
Classified as a “carrion flower,” Hydnora africana is a perennial parasite that grows on the roots of a species of Euphorbia in deserts of South Africa. The thick, succulent-like flowers appear on the surface of the sand in a brown or salmon-red, flesh color. Beetles are attracted to their putrid-like smell and literally cover the blossoms in their quest to feed. The flowers appear directly from the roots of the host plant. Prior to that, the host plant gives no indication that the hydnora is growing on its roots.
Commonly called the stinking corpse lily, Rafflesia arnoldii is considered the largest individual perennial flower. It is also considered an endangered species and is found only in rain forests in Sumatra and Borneo. Stinking corpse lily has no leaves or stems of its own and grows within its host vine, a relative of grapes called Tetrastigma. Rafflesia arnoldii grows unnoticed in its host vine until the flower opens on the outside of the vine. The flowers can be up to 3-feet across and smell like rotting flesh. Carrion beetles and flies are attracted to the smell and they deposit the pollen between male and female flowers. Each female produces millions of seeds that are spread about the jungle on the feet of native fauna, from ants to elephants. Seeds germinate when they become attached to their host vine in a moist crevice and penetrate the surface; except for their blooming flowers, plants of carrion flowers grow completely within the structure of their host vines.
A tree native to the Central American rainforests of Costa Rica, the palanco (Sapranthus palanga) produces large, purple flowers directly from its main trunk. It belongs to a class of flowers called cauliflory, which means flowers that bloom on tree trunks. Their strong, musky odor, which resembles carrion, attracts beetles and flies, which feed on the pollen and thereby effect pollination.