Plants in the Borneo Rain Forests

Updated April 13, 2018

The Lowland Rain Forests of Borneo are home to the world's smallest squirrel, Asia's largest land mammal and more than 15,000 plant species. Some of these plants are found only in Borneo. Considered the richest rainforests in the world, Borneo's rainforests have become victims of exploitation as many of the region's valuable plants are being over-harvested.

Rafflesia arnoldii

Rafflesia arnoldii is the world's largest flower. Growing only in Borneo's rainforests, Rafflesia grows as a single flower. The plant does not develop any leaves, as it puts all its energy into growing the 3-foot-wide flower. This parasitic plant grows only on the vines of Tetrastigma, taking all of its nourishment from the vine. The flower has a smell similar to rotting meat, earning it the nickname "the corpse flower."


Aquilaria are large evergreen trees that grow in Borneo's rainforests. The tree produces resin, called gaharu (or agarwood), in defence of a mould infection. This resin is very aromatic, and over time develops into a very dark, rich resin in the heartwood of the tree. This resin is one of the world's most valuable incenses, used at holy sites around the world. The tree is harvested both for the resin and for the resin-soaked heartwood.


Nepenthes are commonly known as pitcher plants. The Borneo rainforests are home to 30 of the 82 known nepenthes species. These carnivorous plants produce pitcher-shaped leaves that hold both water and digestive fluids. The colourful plants attract insects with their colour and smell. Insects fall into the fluid-filled pitcher to be digested and used as food for the plant.

Eusideroxylon zwageri

Eusideroxylon zwageri is also known by the common names Borneo Ironwood and Belian. This hardwood tree grows up to 100 feet tall. Eusideroxylon zwageri is a renowned wood of the Borneo rainforests. The wood is impervious to termites, and the cut wood can last up to 100 years. Borneo Ironwood is a popular wood for making coffins in China. Because of its adaptability for use in houses, boats and furniture, Borneo Ironwood has been extensively harvested and, in some areas, destroyed. Conservation efforts are underway, with several countries banning imports of this valuable wood.

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum

Rather than try to pronounce its mouthful of a name, locals call this orchid simply the Sumazau slipper orchid. The orchid was named Sabah's official state orchid in 2007. Sabah's rainforest is one of Borneo's rainforests, with Sabah having over half of Borneo's 1,800 orchid species. This lovely orchid with unusual horizontal petals can take up to 15 years to flower.

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About the Author

Drue Tibbits is a writer based in Central Florida, where she attended Florida Southern College. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur and Your Home magazines. She has also been profiled in the Florida Today newspaper and the Writer's Digest magazine. In addition to writing brochure copy for local businesses, she helps new start-up companies develop a local image presence.