Big Is Beautiful: Five Massive Faves From The Plant World

Apr 20, 2016

Contributing Editor

It probably goes without saying (given that you’re reading this on Floom), but there are very few things that give as much satisfaction as finding the perfect pint-sized plant or bouquet to fill an empty spot in our homes.

However, at every opportunity we try to remind ourselves that these often pretty, often delicate ‘objects’ stem (no pun intended) from the vastness and complexity of the natural world. What better way to do that, we thought, than to celebrate those plants and flowers too mighty in size to fit into our neatly co-opted visions of their beauty.

Rafflesia Arnoldii

Obvious place to start, but the Rafflesia Arnoldii is the largest flower on the planet and its striking red blooms more than earn their place at the head of this list with a flowering that can reach up to one metre in diameter. Unfortunately, their oh-my-god-look-at-the-size-of-that-flower impact is kind of lessened by their slightly grosser characteristics: they’re completely plant-less and rootless, instead parasitically forming inside a host plant before bursting forth; they disperse seeds via the carrion flies. They also stink.

The exotic appeal of ol’ Arnold, found most commonly in places such as Sumatra and Borneo, is however improved by its charming discovery story. In the late 1700s, during the Franco-British war, botanists from each country raced to claim the genus for their own nation. To cut a swashbuckling tale of stolen documents and captured ships short, the British eventually won out, and the plant’s longwinded name was given in honour of two British fellows: Rafflesia for the statesman, Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (a real name, no laughing please) and Arnoldii after the botanist, Joseph Arnold.

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Giant Sequoia

My sister is an amazing tree-climber (well she was when we were kids anyway, I’m not sure how often she manages to exercise her skills in recent times - branch-hopping like a little Yorkshire Mowgli probably took a back seat to the PHD in Biomedical Engineering she spent about five years completing). I wasn’t too shabby - I could scoot up the trunks well enough, it was just once I’d reached the highest point I would glance down and inevitably Lose My Shit. Luckily the skinny younger sister that I would ignore in the school playground was on hand to shimmy up after me and guide me down each time.

I reckon even she (in her ten year old prime) would think twice before embarking on an expedition to the top of a Giant Sequoia. For a start you’d probably need a reach of about seven metres in order to get your arms around the diameter of their trunks. You’re also gonna need extensive hypnotherapy to cure any hint of vertigo for when you get to the top - they have an average height of 50-85 metres. Incredibly, they’re the largest living organism by volume on the entire planet. Suck it, Blue Whales.

Ultra-specific tree-climbing intro aside, they’re one of the most amazing things to grace this planet. Their jaw-dropping size is truly majestic, and if you’re lucky enough to witness a forest of Giant Sequoias in person its one of the few experiences to really remind you of how tiny we really are in the grand scheme of things; how all-powerful the natural world is and how its been here much longer than we have and (hopefully) will be for a long time after as well. Their resonance is so great that images of their shattered groves, needlessly created through over-zealous logging of a tree that was far too brittle for construction in the first place, led to a public outcry across their native America. As a result, many of the remaining groves were subsequently preserved as protected lands. Which is great for those of us who like to get a true sense of the Great Outdoors and remind ourselves of our place in the grand scheme of things. Two very healthy, worthwhile pursuits indeed. Far-better than getting stuck at the top of the poxy tree at the end of the garden in your childhood home anyway.

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Amorphophallus Titanum

The Amorphophallus Titanum shares a lot of characteristics with the Rafflesia Arnoldii - they’re both native to Sumatra, they’re both incredibly impressive to look at… and they both emit a stench that those in the know compare to that of rotting flesh. Hence the fact that both appear to be fighting over the same alias: the not-so-covetable ‘Corpse Flower.’ They do look amazing though, bursting up towards the sky in plumes of purples and reds.

1 Floom Magazine Big Is Beautiful Amorphophallus Titanum 1

Posidonia Oceanica

Ibiza: home to iconic balearic beach bars, even more iconic hedonistic super clubs and (of course) a clonal colony of Posidonia Oceanica, aka Neptune Grass, just off its coast that might just be the oldest and largest clonal colony of any kind on the planet. At 8 kilometres across and approximately 100,000 years old, its another awe-inspiring reminder of our small place in the universe. The Neptune Grass itself is comprised of bright green, ribbon-like leaves that swirl and tangle in mesmerising fashion on the beds of the Mediterranean Sea.

1 Floom Magazine Big Is Beautiful Posidonia Oceanica Spheroid 1

Giant Pumpkins

Far less interesting of name than Raffers above, but straightforward at least. You know exactly what you’re getting with Giant Pumpkin, right? It also makes perfect sense that they originated in North America, with its many, many inhabitants who seem to subscribe to the adage ‘big is better.’

Of course, at the risk of disappearing down a rabbit hole of pretty far out pumpkin-themed metaphors for the rise of post-Reagan neo-liberalism, this inevitably translated into ‘biggest is best.’ So now you’ll find pumpkin-growing contests all over the place: prodigious, humungous, and bulbous, they exist on nefarious diets of sunlight, soil and who knows what else. They travel silently in their wheelbarrow-chariots, powered by their (I assume) dungaree-donning, hay-chewing servants. The current world record pumpkin weighs in at 2,323.7 pounds. These are highly-evolved super-plants and I can only assume sentient thought and world domination are next on their agenda. I for one salute our new pumpkin overlords.

1 Floom Magazine Big Is Beautiful Giant Punpkins 1

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