MANILA, Philippines - A team of biologists from the University of the Philippines has discovered the smallest giant flower in the world in Nueva Ecija.
The new species Rafflesia consueloae has an average diameter of 9.73 centimeters and is found only in the Philippines.
It belongs to the Rafflesia group – parasitic plants with magnificent blooms that can reach up to 1.5 meters in diameter.
So far, the new species thrives only in Mt. Balokbok and Mt. Pantaburon within the Pantanbangan-Carranglan watershed where the Pantabangan Hydroelectric Dam is located.
The new species has been classified as critically endangered based on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ criterion of a species having less than 100 square kilometers of extent of occurrence with its two small populations.
First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC), which operates the Pantabangan Hydroelectric Dam, together with the UP Biology and Diliman Science Research Foundation (DSRF), had been undertaking a long-term biodiversity conservation monitoring program in the watershed as part of its commitment to understand and protect that environment.
First Gen chairman and chief executive officer Federico Lopez hailed the discovery.
“The Philippines is blessed with so many amazing living things that, even in this day and age, the world of science isn’t aware of. We’re thankful the country has researchers and scientists at the UP Institute of Biology who dedicate their lives to unlocking the mysteries of these enigmatic species for all of us. It’s really a privilege for us to be working closely with such committed men and women and their work truly deserves everyone’s support,” he said.
The new species is named Rafflesia consueloae in honor of Lopez’s mother, Consuelo.
“With her demure but strong personality traits, which Rafflesia consueloae also possesses, she provides the inspiration for Mr. Lopez’s pursuit of biodiversity conservation in the Philippines,” said professor Perry Ong of the UP Biology and DSRF.
Ong described the sighting of the new flower species as serendipitous, as a field assistant accidentally kicked over a pile of forest litter, exposing a decayed flower of R. consueloae.