Rafflesia patma Blume flower organs: histology of the epidermis and vascular structures, and a search for stomata.
A histological study of Rafflesia patma revealed the simplicity of a flower’s vascular tissue and epidermal features of flower organs, including their structures and pigmentation. Rafflesia is an endophytic holoparasitic plant that infects Tetrastigma. In a previous study, we characterized the shape of the strands of an endophyte (Rafflesia patma Blume) and hypothesized their distribution. In this study, we deepened our analysis by assessing parts of flower tissue sampled during anthesis, performed surface casting of the abaxial and adaxial sides of the perigone lobe to profile their surface features, and histologically characterized the perigone lobe, perigone tube, and central column base, including the anther and cupula region. The objective of these observations was to compare tissues from different organs and the distribution of cells staining positive for tannin, suberin, and lignin. Observable features in this study were vascular and epidermal tissue. We also observed reduced vascular tissue with xylem and vascular parenchyma in multiple organs. The adaxial epidermis found in the perigone lobes and tube had papillate cells, and their function might be to assist with the emission of odor through chemical evaporation. The abaxial epidermis, also found in perigone lobes and tube, had flattened cells. These, combined with the nearby flattened parenchyma cells, especially in the outermost, early perigone lobe, might provide a tougher (stiffer) outer protective barrier for the flower. The accumulation of tannin in perigone lobes might offer protection to the flower from herbivores prior to anthesis. Although a previous observation indicated the possibility of stomata on the surface of Rafflesia flowers, no stomata were found in this study.