Is Rafflesia an endothermic flower?
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- • The giant flowers of the parasitic Rafflesia occur in the shade of the forest understorey. They present several characteristics in common with the related species, Rhizanthes lowii, which is a strongly endothermic flower. The possible existence of endothermy in Rafflesia tuan-mudae was investigated here.
- • The internal and surface temperature of the flowers were continuously monitored with fine thermocouples while radiation fluxes and microclimatic variables were recorded. A computational fluid dynamic model was used to predict the concentrations of CO2 inside the diaphragm of the flower.
- • It was found that the internal parts of the flower were maintained a few degrees (1–6 K) above air temperature. It was not possible to account for this temperature rise without postulating a significant internal source of heat. It was concluded that R. tuan-mudae is an endothermic flower that generates a maximum of 50–60 W m−2 of heat in the centre of the column.
- • The possible role of endothermy, CO2 and volatiles as elements in the mimicry of the flower to attract pollinating blowflies is discussed and compared with the related species Rhizanthes lowii.