New species of Rafflesia discovered

PUTRAJAYA: AS a research team was studying the Rafflesia flowers in the forest reserve of Gunung Benom in Pahang two years ago, its members noticed different traits in some of them.

The team members realised that they had discovered a new species of the Rafflesia flower.

"We were excited and began documenting our findings which was later published in the Turkish Botany Journal on Sept 25," said team leader Professor Dr Jumaat Adam Jumaat of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

He has been involved in studying the Rafflesia genus since 1982.

The discovery of the ninth new species of the Rafflesia genus in Malaysia and 32nd in the world was named Rafflesia sharifah-hapsahiae after UKM Vice-Chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin.

The recognition was given to Sharifah Hapsah on Friday at the university's research and innovation congress dinner for her constant support in ensuring the success of the research and being the main catalyst in UKM's research programmes. Some of unique characteristics of the Rafflesia sharifah-hapsahiae are its petals which are more closely overlapped and there are more white spots on its reddish brown petals.

Jumaat also hinted another possible new discovery which he expected to unveil in the middle of next year.

"We are still doing our research and it is still premature to reveal anything until the findings have been published in (academic) journals. The discovery of the Rafflesia sharifah-hapsahiae has certainly further strengthened our resolve to look out for other new species," he said.

The Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world, can grow up to one metre in diameter and weigh up to 10kg. It is a parasitic plant, without roots or leaves.