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Rafflesia spp.: propagation and conservation


Main Conclusion

The propagation of Rafflesia spp. is considered to be important for future development of ornamental and other applications. Thus far, the only successful propagation technique has been grafting. This mini-review succinctly emphasizes what is known about Rafflesia species.

Members of the genus Rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae), which are holoparasitic plants known to grow on a host vine, Tetrastigma sp., are widely spread from the Malayan Peninsula to various islands throughout Indonesia. The plant’s geographical distribution as well as many other aspects pertaining to the basic biology of this genus have still not been studied. The young flower buds and flowers of wild Rafflesia hasseltii Suringar, Rafflesia keithii Meijer and Rafflesia cantleyi Solms-Laubach are used in local (Malaysia and Indonesia) traditional ethnomedicine as wound-healing agents, but currently no formal published research exists to validate this property. To maintain a balance between its ethnomedicinal and ornamental use, and conservation, Rafflesia spp. must be artificially cultivated to prevent overexploitation. A successful method of vegetative propagation is by host grafting using Rafflesia-impregnated Tetrastigma onto the stem of a normal Tetrastigma plant. Due to difficulties with culture contamination in vitro, callus induction was only accomplished in 2010 for the first time when picloram and 2,4-D were added to a basal Murashige and Skoog medium, and the tissue culture of holoparasitic plants continues to be extremely difficult. Seeds harvested from fertile fruit may serve as a possible method to propagate Rafflesia spp. This paper provides a brief synthesis on what is known about research related to Rafflesia spp. The objective is to further stimulate researchers to examine, through rigorous scientific discovery, the mechanisms underlying the ethnomedicinal properties, the flowering mechanisms, and suitable in vitro regeneration protocols that would allow for the fortification of germplasm conservation.

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Some additional information was acquired informally by dialog during the International Symposium of Rafflesia and Amorphophallus in Bengkulu (September 2015) from the director of Sabah Parks, Dr. Jamili Nais, who has been personally involved in Rafflesia ecology and conservation research, including conventional and in vitro propagation. Information regarding Rafflesia propagation in Palupuh, Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, Indonesia was also gathered following discussion with Joni Hartono (Palupuh) who has field experience and information as a local guide for Rafflesia conservation. Special thanks also to Mohammad Apriza Suska from Suska Nurseri in Ciawi, West Java who provided the authors with some useful information. Finally, the authors thank Neka Afnidarti (SMP 3 Karang Tinggi Junior Highschool, Bengkulu Tengah, Indonesia) for providing photos used in Figs. 2 and 4, and Noprianto (KPPGPPL, Bengkulu, Indonesia) for providing photos used in Fig. 2.

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Correspondence to Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva.

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Wicaksono, A., Mursidawati, S., Sukamto, L.A. et al. Rafflesia spp.: propagation and conservation. Planta 244, 289–296 (2016).

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  • Holoparasite
  • Medicine
  • Metabolite
  • Propagation
  • Rafflesia