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Mysterious Plants

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The plant Rafflesia has the world’s largest flowers and gives off one of the worst scents; it’s also something of a biological enigma, a leafless parasite that lives off forest vines. For the botanist Chris Thorogood, an expert in parasitic and carnivorous plants at the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, Rafflesia is also an obsession. In his book, Pathless Forest, he goes in search of this mysterious plant in some of the last wildernesses in South East Asia.

Dr Kelsey Byers is an evolutionary chemical ecologist who specialises in floral scent and its influence on the evolution of flowering plants. In her laboratory at the John Innes Centre in Norwich she studies how flowers use different smells to attract their pollinator of choice. From sweet aromas to the stink of rotting flesh, she explores how plants use con-artistry and sexual deception to thrive.

The ethnobotanist William Milliken from Kew Gardens has spent much of his career working with indigenous people in the Amazon to preserve traditional plant knowledge. Now he’s focused on collecting folklore about the use of plants to treat ailments in animals in Britain. From wild garlic treating mastitis in cows, to cabbage for flatulence in dogs, he hopes to uncover a cornucopia of plant-based veterinary medicines.

Producer: Katy Hickman

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