The ‘troll steak’ (Sapria himalayana, Rafflesiaceae) is currently in blossom on Doi Pui mountain in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.
Take the Doi Suthep road past the temple and past the palace and keep driving towards the campground. When you come to a deserted checkpoint with a red and white bar on your left side, park the car on the opposite side under some gorgeous Mahonia nepalensis and keep walking along the road towards the camping. When you see the last sign indicating ‘camping 200 m’, make a stop at the second concrete post before that sign to behold this fabulous being. The flower can match anything from the Avatar movie and it is well worth the love bites from the land leeches to see it. Do not forget to kneel and sniff the interior. The flower tries to mimic carrion to attract pollinating flies.
Maxwell & Elliott characterize this parasitic flower as ‘a rare species found in primary evergreen forest’. The IUCN classifies it as an endangered species, and is reported from northeastern India, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand. You must not damage this plant and amateur cultivation efforts are futile; it needs its forest. Doi Pui – Doi Suthep National Park protects all plants and animals by law.
It infects the roots of lianas within the grapevine family (Vitaceae), and makes no leaves at all. Its sudden appearance, seemingly from the ground, makes many believe this is some kind of mushroom, and the roots inside the host may have a structure resembling a mycelium.
Greek ‘sapros’ means ‘rotten’. I am not aware of any English name, but they are needed to create an interest for plants. I suggest ‘troll steak’.
Text: Eric Danell
Photo: Robert Kremer, Luxembourg, who joined a Dokmai Garden excursion on October 12th. Our fellowship was alone at the summit of this famous mountain, a fact I find remarkable.