Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dictionary Flashback: Rafflesia

I recall a legendary game of Dictionary played in my parents' living room during my high school (or immediately post-) era, with so many players we had to double up in teams. My partner Nick Byram flipped straight to a word he already knew, and with it we quite crushingly stumped more than a dozen hyperintellectual college-bound knowitalls.

rafflesia (n) a foul-smelling, stemless plant native to southeastern Asia

The reveal of the true definition and the accompanying crest of incredulous laughter (rising still higher when Nick articulated--from personal knowledge--that the plant had been named for British explorer T. Stamford Raffles) was one of those ineffable moments of youth--indescribable to those who weren't present, uncapturable on film, that stands like a stone marker in one's emotional memory of the path traveled long ago.

Today I found photos--the first I've seen--and a feature post about Rafflesia, asserted to be the largest and perhaps rarest flower in the entire world, over at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.
They take from 9 to 21 months to bud, and then the bloom lasts for just a week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having a 10 year old, it is surprising how often the word "rafflesia" comes up (we have several books that mention it in one place or another).

Whenever I hear the word, the first thing I think of is that Dictionary game (and I'm not even sure I was there).

The second thing I think is the word "Ghesunteit".