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Rare flower species found only in northern Philippines

TUGUEGARAO, Cagayan –A one-of-a-kind flower has been unveiled to the public in this northern Philippine city, with environmental scientists saying the recent discovery is a rare specie endemic in Cagayan province. The five-petal flower named Rafflesia leonardi, which belongs to the Rafflesia family of rare flowers, was discovered last May by a multi-sectoral group of environmental scientists at remote sitio Kinapawan in the coastal town of Lallo. According to the Cagayan Valley Partners in People Development (Cavapped), the Rafflesia leonardi is believed to be the only of its kind in the world, the fourth specie of Rafflesia in Luzon and the eighth in the Philippines. Rafflesia leonardi was named after Filipino botanist Dr. Leonardo Co of Conservation International (CI) and belongs to the Rafflesia family of rare flowers. S cientists say the Rafflesia, also dubbed "corpse flower" or "meat flower," is a genus of parasitic flowering plants first discovered in the Indonesian rainforest in 1818. Without stems, leaves and true roots, the Rafflesia leonardi germinates direct from its host which is commonly a vine or creeper. It matures into a full fascinating bloom after nine months and wilts after seven days to a pure black pith and bears fruit. Cavapped said the new flower species has features similar to Rafflesia lobata and Rafflesia manillana, but it is the only one with a diaphragm, which incurred the curiosity for more studies by scientists from two universities in the US including the Harvard University. Among the Rafflesia species, the Rafflesia leonardi also grows near creeks or rivers in healthy forests and thrives in an un-polluted environment. Indigenous Agta people who inhabit the wilderness of Kinapawan forest in Lallo said that the flower is commonly known to them as Ngaratngat but they were not aware of its significance until scientists and personnel from environmental groups started to arrive in their area in search of the rare flower. Information revealed that Rafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants, it was first discovered in the Indonesian rain forest in 1818 and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition team that discovered the said species. To date, there are 26 recorded species which are all found in southeastern Asia. In full bloom Rafflesia leonardi can grow to around the size of a regular car tire and weighs up to 22 lbs. It looks stunning in its bright red petals bathed in a pattern of white dots and is also called ‘corpse flower’ or ‘meat flower’ because it emits a scent similar to a rotting meat, the putrid smell attracts insects like carrion flies who transport the pollens from male to female flowers.- GMANews.TV