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Rafflesiaceae

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Rafflesiaceae
Rafflesiaceae.jpg
Scientific Classification


Genera

Rafflesiaceae is a taxonomic family of parasitic flowering plants. The flowers can be very tiny or gigantic. The largest flower in the world, Rafflesia arnoldii, belongs to this family. In total this family contains nine genera. The majority of genera are endangered or face endangerment soon. So many countries have passed protective laws which forbid people to kill or damage them. Also in some countries, many genera are protected in National and State Parks. Although these plants are parasitic, they also provide many medical and religious benefits in some countries.[3] [4]

Body Design

The central disk of a flower

Like most parasitic organisms, the species that belong to the Rafflesiaceae family have no stem, leaves, root, or chlorophyll. Instead the organism is composed of thread-like segments of fungal mycelium that attach, grow, and depend on other vine plants. Only the part that breaks through the bark of the host is visible and develops into a flower. At the first stage, a bud appears that looks like cabbage. Then after nine months, it develops into a large flower, which exhibits radial symmetry. Along with its five lobes, the flower grows to be between eight and over one hundred centimeters in diameter.[5] When they have fully matured, the flowers weigh approximately eleven kilograms (twenty-four pounds).[4] The color of the flower ranges anywhere from a white to red to brown.[5] The flower has stamens and pistils which later develop into a fruit.[3] Also in its cup-like center the flower contains a disk which is connected to the reproductive parts, anthers (male parts) or styles (female parts).[6]

The fruit, that appear from the flower, matures for about seven months. They do not break open to disperse their seeds (indehiscence); instead squirrels and other small creatures spread them. The seeds are very small and not symmetrical.[5]

Life Cycle

A bud that has just formed

Reproduction starts when a tiny bud forms on the root or stem of the host. Over the course of the first year it continues to develop until it is large and slightly resembles a cabbage. Then the bud opens up and a flower appears. A disk sits in the middle of the flower and carries either a stigma or stamen (depending on the gender of the flower). The flower releases a foul odor which attracts insects. Then the insects pollinate the flowers, by being in contact with both the female and male flowers. But this is often difficult to do since the plants are usually surrounded by the same gender of flower, and they do not bloom for long periods of time (usually five to seven days). But when they do get pollinated, a fruit, containing thousands of seeds, forms. Small critters are attracted to it and are the main distributors of the seeds.[3] [4]

Ecology

A map of the distribution of Rafflesiaceae

Flowers that belong to the family Rafflesiaceae can be found in various parts of the world. Different genera grow in different environments. They can be spotted in southern Africa, Eastern Europe, Spain, southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, and some asian islands), Central and South America. Most of the plants grow on the vines of genus Tetrastigma, which are found in rainforests. The rainforests are extremely warm and humid, sometimes reaching 100% humidity at night. They attach themselves to other plants, which grow above ground. Because of this they can grow at altitudes of about one hundred meters (328 feet) above sea level.

Since the flowers in this family contain no chlorophyll, they have no way of manufacturing their own food. So they are endoparasitic (benefiting only themselves) and depend on other host plants to nourish them with minerals and food. The Rafflesia and a couple other genera depend on the vines found in the Tetrastigma genus, while other genera depend on other hosts. They grow on these and absorb the contents produced by them.[3] [6] [7]

Uses and Purpose

The bud is used as medicine for women before and after childbirth.

Organisms in the Rafflesiaceae family are used in the tropical regions of the world for medicine and other uses, even though studies showed high traces of tannin and phenols, which are toxic. Women use the flower buds before childbirth to help control internal bleeding. Also it is used after childbirth to help the women recover and to shrink the womb. Men use it as a way to obtain energy. It can also be used as an aphrodisiac (something that arouses sexual desire).

The plant is also used in a religious way. Monks use it to mix and create various poisons. In Malaysia, the plant is considered to have a spirit because of its foul odor and large size. In Thailand, they are said to be capable of helping someone attain nirvana because they have magical powers. [6] [8]

Gallery

References

  1. Rafflesiaceae USDA. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-access).
  2. Rafflesiaceae Wikispecies. Web. 19 May 2013(Date-of-access).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Genus Rafflesia Earlham College. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-Access).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Rafflesiaceae Britannica. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-Access).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Rafflesiaceae s. str. Parasitic Plants. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-access).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Rafflesia arnoldii (corpse flower) KEW. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-Access).
  7. Rafflesiaceae EOL. Web. 27 May 2013 (Date-of-Access).
  8. Rafflesia Infopedia. Web. 19 May 2013 (Date-of-Access).