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11.1.07

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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Plant 'vaccines' may combat viruses in crops

New York, New York
January 10, 2007 Plants
might not get colds, but they do get viruses — and viral diseases in crops cause enormous economic damage each year. New research, however, suggests that plant “vaccines,” developed at Rockefeller University, may be a new way of helping fend off viral attackers.

“Plants possess several innate mechanisms to resist viruses,” says Nam-Hai Chua, Andrew W. Mellon Professor and head of the Laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology, “but many viruses are able to overcome these barriers. Transgenic technology offers the possibility to genetically modify plants with genes encoding virus tolerance and/or resistance.” Chua’s research, published in November in Nature Biotechnology, shows that the new method can confer resistance against two turnip viruses.

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Rare rhododendron to be unveiled



One of the world's rarest plants is to be unveiled at the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) in Edinburgh.

Visitors to the glasshouses will be able to see a Malaysian rhodedendron, thought to be the only remaining example of the species in the world.
The plant is one of several threatened species held in the RBG living plants collection, which curators hope will help inspire Scottish gardeners. The collection will also feature at the Gardening Scotland show in Ingliston. David Mitchell, the RBG's indoor curator, said the RBG's mission was to "explore and explain" the world of plants.
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