The Big, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Untangling the Cryptic Biology of the World's Largest Flowers
In this Second Thursday Garden Talk, Luke Nikolov, assistant professor at UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute, discusses the vegetative and reproductive structure of Rafflesiaceae, a family of rare parasitic plants found in the tropical forests of east and southeast Asia. Crowned “the greatest prodigy of the vegetable kingdom,” Rafflesiaceae produce the largest flowers of all plants. The plants are endoparasites of vines and lack stems, leaves, roots, and any photosynthetic tissue, relying entirely on their host plants for both water and nutrients, and only then emerge as flowers from the roots or lower stems of the host plants. The flowers look and smell like decaying animal flesh and exhibit numerous features unknown in the vast majority of flowering plants. Learn how these unusual plants are constructed, and what clues they offer on their evolution from tiny, flowered ancestors to floral giants.