Rare species of world’s largest flower found in Aurora forests


“It was beautiful.”

Forester Max Millan, Jr. of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) only has these words to say when he stumbled upon a species of the world’s largest flower, a Rafflesia manillana, during a routine biological survey in the thick forests of the Sierra Madre mountains in Aurora.

Millan was accompanying a team of biologists from the National Museum of the Philippines led by Dr. Edwin Tadiosa when they found a Rafflesia bloom while surveying reptiles and amphibians inside the 5,000-hectare Aurora Memorial National Park recently.

“The flower is in full bloom, with a diameter of 17 centimeters,” Millan said.

Found only in the Philippines, Rafflesia manillana is found in the DENR List of Threatened Species, disclosed Maximo Dichoso, executive director of the regional DENR here.

“The presence of this flower only proves the rich biodiversity in Aurora’s forests,” he explained, adding that this parasitic plant can also be found in Mt. Natib in Bataan, Mt. Makiling in Laguna, Mt. Labo in Bicol, and on Samar Island Natural Park in Samar.

Considered critically endangered, Rafflesia is a genus of tropical parasitic plants that do not contain a chlorophyll, and therefore incapable of photosynthesis. 

Scientists estimate that there are 17 Rafflesia species distributed throughout Southeast Asia, although Rafflesia manillana is smaller compared with the R. arnoldii found in Indonesia.

R. arnoldii can grow crowns up to a meter across, can reach 12 feet in height and weigh up to 11 kilos.

In the Philippines, there are at least 11 recognized species of Rafflesia, four of which are found in Luzon.

Aurora Memorial National Park spans more than 5,000 hectares of mostly lowland dipterocarp forests in the Sierra Madre mountain range at the border of Nueva Ecija and Aurora.

Rising to 1,000 meters above sea level, Aurora Memorial National Park is home to 19 species of amphibians, 30 species of reptiles, and 8 species of birds including the endangered Philippine Eagle.

The park has been declared a protected area under Proclamation No. 744 of 1941 and was dedicated to the late first lady Aurora Aragon Quezon.

Earlier, a team of biologists and biodiversity experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman and the Diliman Science Research Foundation discoveredtwo murrid rodents, the Rhycomys tapulao and Apomys brownorum,  that can only be found in Mt. Tapulao in Zambales.

In 2011, two species of forest mice of the genus Apomys were also discovered in the Mingan Mountains in Aurora.

The biodiversity expedition found at least 304 species of plants and 142 species of animals thriving in the 17,000-hectare forests in Central Luzon’s tallest mountain, including six other plant species that can only be found in Luzon.