Can you imagine a flower bud the size of a basketball? Sound impossible? Such a flower grows in the rain forests of Brazil. The flower of the rafflesia can grow to be as large as 38 inches across and weigh 38 pounds. While most flowers have pleasing aromas, the rafflesia smells like, and looks like, rotting flesh. Not exactly a candidate for a dinner-table centerpiece.

The rafflesia’s aroma Serves to attract carrion flies. Carrion flies are the first scavengers to appear when something dies. The powerful, unpleasant (to us) aroma draws the flies; the flies then pollinate this strange flower. The rafflesia, which takes up to two years to develop, will appear for only three days then quickly decompose. The rafflesia is only one of several fascinating “Goliaths” found in the tropical rain forests.

The most obvious giants in the rain forest are the trees. Most are as tall as a ten-story building. The trunks of these trees are smooth, straight and clear of branches until the very top where they branch out and form the thick “canopy” — the forest roof.

As amazing as these trees are, there are yet taller ones called “emergent”s. The emergents thrust their leafy crowns through the canopy growing nearly twice as tall — up to 165 feet. Crowns of emergent trees have been known to cover as much as an acre.

Clinging to the rain-forest trees are vines known as lianas. While these vines are not parasites, they can grow to be as thick asa man’s body, hundreds of feet long, and weigh up to a ton. When an aged or diseased tree falls, it brings others crashing down as well, because all are webbed together by the mammoth vines.

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