Have you ever stopped to consider that the smallest and largest categories of “things” commonly get all the recognition? The world’s largest and smallest people are in the Guinness Book of World Records, while small and incredibly large animals have documentaries focused entirely on them. In the plant world, there is also an amazing range of sizes from the world’s smallest flower, the Water-meal flower, to the largest, the Rafflesia arnoldii.
The Smallest Flower: The Water-Meal
The world’s smallest flower, the Water-meal or Wolffia globosa, is a duckweed plant from the family Lemnaceae. The family includes 38 of the smallest flowers that we know about today. The plant is generally 1/42 inches long and 1/85 inches wide. That’s about the size of a poppy seed. The flower of the rootless plant is formed in a depression on the surface of the plant. Many plants often float together, and you’ll be hard pressed to see the flower without a magnifying glass.
The Largest Flower: The Rafflesia Arnoldii
Also called the corpse flower due to its putrid, decaying flesh scent, you can find this large flower in the tropical climates of Sumatra and Borneo. It is the largest single flower on the planet and is red in color with yellow dots and a huge gaping hole in the center. The bloom at maturity can reach three feet in diameter and weigh nearly 24 pounds.
A parasitic plant, it grows on indigenous vines and has no visible roots or leaves, much like a fungus. The flower of the plant only lingers for a few days, while the buds take a long time to reach maturity. Along with being the largest flower, this bloom is also recognized for its rarity. You could literally fit millions of Water-meal flowers inside the bloom of the Rafflesia arnoldii.
Small Flower Honorable Mentions
While the Water-meal flower wins the title as the world’s smallest flower, there are other flowers that are incredibly small and deserve recognition on this list:
- Bladderwort. The carnivorous plant is present throughout the world in fresh water and wet soiled environments. The incredibly small flowers look similar to orchids and use a bladder-like system to trap small prey, like protozoa and larvae, from the water in the soil. The trapping flowers range from 2 mm to 10 cm wide and stand above the water and soil in a variety of different colors.
- Alfalfa. The flowers of the alfalfa plant are about 10-25 mm long and similarly wide. They appear in clusters on the plant which stands roughly 23-35 inches tall. The plant is considered a legume and is also used as a crop for honeybees or dairy animals.
- Black Medick. The blooms of the black medick are bright yellow, and each flower in the cluster measures to be around .25 inches in diameter. It is part of the clover family and related to the alfalfa plant.
- Black Swallowort. These small and dark purple flowers are beautiful, petite, and star shaped. Measuring around .25 inches wide, these plants are part of the milkweed family primarily found in the lower regions of Europe. The plant is considered an invasive species and can be found today in the northeastern regions of America, as well as the Midwest.
Large Flower Honorable Mentions
Some of the largest flowers in the world are also some of the most bizarre looking flowers you will find. While small flowers appear delicate and beautiful, the larger sized plants can appear grotesque. Here are some of the planet’s largest:
- Amorphophallus titanium. This plant also has a nickname as a corpse flower and is also found in Sumatra. With a bell shaped spathe and a large inflorescence, reaching more than 10 feet at times, this flower is green on the outside with a deep purple/burgundy in the middle. Collectors around the world consider this flower a prized possession.
- Sunflower. There are many different varieties of sunflowers, and most are relatively tame in size. The largest sunflower, however, is included in the Guinness Book of World Records for being 30 feet high in 2014. The largest flower head was recorded at 32 ¼ inches from 1983. Large blooms can routinely measure between 1-2 feet in diameter.
- Giant Amazon water lily. These beastly blooms reach a foot across in the waters of South America. More delicate than other large flowers, the giant water lily is truly a delight to behold.
- Hibiscus. Certain tropical hibiscus blooms can grow to be as much as a foot in diameter in brilliant shades of red, white, and pink. Adaptable, anyone can grow these large flowers at home.
By Joanne M. Anderson
Photographer Matej Hudovernik offered the photograph of Rafflesia Arnoldii under a Standard License on iStock
Photographer marekuliasz offered the photograph of Alfalfa under a Standard License on iStock
Photographer Bildpoet offered the photograph of Bladderwort under a Standard License on iStock
Photographer Andreas Altenburger offered the photograph of Corpse Flower under a Standard License on iStock
Photographer metadog offered the photograph of Sunflower under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay