A rare plant used by tribesmen in the Kalahari Desert as an appetite suppressant has blossomed for possibly the first time in Britain - at the Eden Project.
Hoodia Gordonii is a spiky, succulent plant which has been attracting interest from scientists as a possible secret weapon in the fight against obesity.
Now it has burst into flower at Cornwall's Eden Project, where it has been grown from plants sourced from South Africa. Although national research is being undertaken into the possibility of the plant being used in the production of anti-obesity drugs, Eden staff are more interested in the plant as another educational tool in informing the public about the diversity of plant life.
Horticulturist Jann Coles said: "We are delighted that it has flowered for what may be the first time in the UK, here at Eden. It's a privilege to be looking after such a rare and beautiful plant, especially one with such interesting scientific potential."
While the plant's beneficial effects might be relatively recent news for researchers in the West, it has long been a favourite with the San bushmen of the Kalahari who eat it to suppress their appetites on hunting trips.
It contains a previously unknown molecule about 10,000 times as active as glucose. Glucose fires the nerve cells in the brain to tell people when they are full and it seems that Hoodia has the same effect.
Being from an arid region, Hoodia does not feature in Eden's rainforest or Mediterranean biomes but will be used in Eden's next phase, The Edge.