What does the third evolution of a grass Pokémon have in common with a parasitic plant found in Sumatra and Borneo? Surprisingly, quite a bit.
Rafflesia arnoldii served as the aesthetic inspiration for Vileplume, the evolved form of Gloom. It boasts the biggest flower in the plant kingdom, mottled flesh-like flowers of up to one metre in diameter which also happen to smell like decomposing animals. Lovely.
Similar to Amorphophallus titanum, the smell of rotting flesh emanates from the plant in order to attract Carrion beetles. It is these flesh eating insects which enable pollination of the Rafflesia arnoldii and therefore allow the population to carry-on (pardon the pun) reproducing and enabling the species to survive.
Whereas Vileplume is poisonous and can send you to the Poké centre irritatingly early, in the real world, R. arnoldii is non-toxic and positively harmless to humans. Unless you have a delicate stomach, in which case that fry-up might not taste quite so nice the second time around.
R. arnoldii has no leaves or roots, quite the issue for a plant you would think. Alas, through our old friend evolution it has found a way to survive. By stealing from others, of course. R. arnoldii is a parasite; a good-for-nothing freeloader that helps itself to the hard earned nutrients, water and energy of the host plant.
Beneficial to one but detrimental to the other, the definition of a parasitic relationship may sound eerily similar to some of us but R. arnoldii thrives by manipulating other species around it. Research has found that carrion beetles get no benefit from pollinating R. arnoldii, although it doesn’t harm them either in this case.
Commensalism, parasitism and decomposition. Rafflesia arnoldii; a lesson in how cheating and exploiting others can lead to stardom as an anime character in one of the biggest media franchises in the world.