Venue: The Indonesian Embassy, 30 Great Peter Street, Westminster London SW1P 2BU
As a child, Chris Thorogood dreamed of seeing Rafflesia – the plant with the world’s largest flowers. He crafted life-size replicas in an abandoned cemetery, carefully bringing them to life with paper and paint. He has now dedicated his life to studying the biology of such extraordinary plants, working alongside botanists and foresters in Southeast Asia to document these huge, mysterious blooms.
This talk will tell the story of Dr Thorogood’s journey to study and protect this remarkable plant – a biological enigma, still little understood, which invades vines as a leafless parasite and steals its food from them. He will describe his mind-bending adventures, as he faced a seemingly impenetrable barrier of weird, wonderful and sometimes fearsome flora – from finding himself smacking off leeches, hanging off vines, wading through rivers; and following indigenous tribes into remote, untrodden rainforests in search of Rafflesia’s ghostly, foul-smelling blooms, more than a metre across.
Dr Thorogood’s research focuses on the evolution of parasitic and carnivorous plants, and plant diversity in floristic hotspots including the Mediterranean Basin, Macaronesia, Southeast Asia, and Japan. He won a scholarship in 2005 to carry out his PhD research on speciation in parasitic plants at the University of Bristol, for which he won the Irene Manton Prize for botany in 2009. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.