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Family found for gigantic flowers

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

The 200-year-old mystery of where one of the world's largest flowers sit in the botanical family tree has finally been solved by scientists.

To their surprise, the plants, which have a one-metre-wide, blood-red, rotten-flesh stinking flower, belong to a family of plants bearing tiny blooms.

The Rafflesiaceae were tricky to place because of their unusual features, the team reports in the journal Science.

Such traits include the fact that they are rootless, leafless and stemless.

Their giant blooms, which weigh up to 7kg (15lb) and in appearance and fragrance mimic rotting meat, attract carrion flies that pollinate them.

And the strange plants, which can be found growing on the jungle floor in southeast Asia, are also parasitic. Eschewing the process of photosynthesis, the Rafflesiaceae bed down in the tissue of the tropical grape vine, feasting upon the nutrients it provides.

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