World Smallest orchid

Botanists who have just discovered a new flower in Ecuador can be forgiven for having missed it until now.

The world's smallest orchid is just 2.1mm wide, with transparent petals that are just one cell thick. It comes from the Platystele genus, which is made up of mostly miniature plants.

American scientist Lou Jost found the tiny flower by accident among the roots of a larger plant that he had collected from the Cerro Candelaria reserve in the eastern Andes.

He said: 'I saw that down among the roots was a tiny little plant that I realised was more interesting than the bigger orchid.

'Looking at the flower is often the best way to be able to identify which species of orchid you’re got hold of - and can tell you whether you’re looking at an unknown species or not.'

It is the 60th new orchid that Dr Jost has discovered in the past decade.

He works for Ecuador's EcoMinga Foundation, which created the reserve in partnership with the World Land Trust in Britain.

'It is an exciting feeling to find a new species,' he said.

'People think everything has been discovered but there's much more.'

More than 1,000 orchid species have been unearthed in the South American country in the last 100 years as new roads have opened up more remote regions.

Dr Jost's most exciting find was a group of 28 types of orchids from the teagueia genus in a mountainous area near Banos, Ecuador.

The group was previously thought to only have six species.

Gardener grows marrow that looks like a duck

At a glance, it could easily be a duck, ruffling its feathers as it sits in a nest.

But this incredible image actually shows a marrow grown by Marilyn and Lionel Partridge in their vegetable patch.

The remarkable vegetable even features an eye, after it scratched against a twig, while the 2in stalk perfectly resembles a beak.

Mrs Partridge, 62, said: 'I have never in my 40 years of gardening and growing my own vegetables come across anything that looks like an animal before.

'I am absolutely delighted. The marrow just looked a bit odd at first, but we then realised that it looked like a duck.

'When I saw it, I burst out laughing. It is so realistic. We haven't done anything to it, it is perfectly natural.

'It is in the shape of a duck with its head turned about to preen itself.

'We couldn't eat it because it looked so adorable. Besides, would it be a meat or vegetable course?

'My two-year-old granddaughter Sophie loves it. She kept looking at it and saying "duck, duck".

'Everyone thinks we must have done something to it to make it grow like a bird but we didn't. In fact we completely forgot we had planted it.'

Mrs Partridge, a grandmother of four, added: 'It would be great to grow another odd-shaped plant but seeing it took us 40 plus years to find this one, we won't hold our breath.'

The couple's marrow is now part of a display in honour of Wild Bird Care Week at the garden centre where they bought the original plant.

'When our grandchildren, Matilda, Henry and Finley Doel told us that they had entered a bird modelling competition at Sanders GardenWorld, we decided to take it along to add to the garden centre's display,' Mrs Partridge added.

Ex-soldier has all 223 names of troops killed in Afghanistan tattooed on his body

His bare back is still red raw from their freshly-inked names.

But former soldier Shaun Clark had promised to have the name of every troop killed in Afghanistan tattooed on his body in honour of their sacrifice.

And he wasn't going to back out.

Mr Clark, 43, spent more than four hours in the tattooist's chair today as each of the 223 names were etched in ink over his chest and back.

Mr Clark, who served with the 8th Battalion Light Infantry Regiment from 1989 to 1996, was waiting in the tattooist's chair at 11am this morning to carry out his painful pledge.

The first name was etched on his body just as the traditional Armistice Day two-minute silence began

He said: 'I don't mind suffering for a few days if I can let the lads know that people really care about what they're doing out there, and raise some money for the guys coming home wounded as well.

'The family thought I was mad to begin with, but they've come round to the idea now, and my wife is backing me all the way.'

The married father-of-two from Doncaster hopes his challenge will raise £500 for the charity Help for Heroes.

He plans on updating the sombre list every year on Remembrance Day if required.

Before his ordeal began, Mr Clark said: 'It's going to be painful business but it's nothing compared to what the troops are going through every single day on the front line.'

He added: 'I know it's a bit extreme covering the top half of your body front and back with 223 names, but it's my way of honouring all those men and women and it'll be there as a memorial for as long as I live.'

Mr Clark said: 'I wanted to do something to raise money for the heroes who still need help and to honour the memory of the fallen.

'I've still lots of friends from my days in the Army over in Afghanistan and there's lots of Donny lads out there as well.

'Lots of people do things to raise money but I wanted to do something different and something permanent.

'It's not just about raising money - it's also about letting these lads know that people care about what they're doing.'

Tattoo artist Kevin Kent, who is donating his services free of charge, said: 'We're going to start just as the two minute silence begins at 11am on Wednesday, and I've told Shaun that's it's going to be a slow and painful process.'

Mr Clark served in Denmark, Gibraltar and Norway before leaving the Army in 1997.

He says he has received many messages of support from soldiers still out in Afghanistan as well as from former colleagues.

Mr Clark has set up a page on the Just Giving fundraising website and has raised £165.

His page is inundated with supportive comments from well-wishers.

One supporter writes: 'Good luck shaun its means a lot to me what you are doing as my husband is there soon.'

Another adds: 'Top bloke. We will remember them.'

A Help for Heroes spokesman said: 'We are used to people going the extra mile, but this goes far beyond the norm.

'Shaun was in touch a few days ago to confirm everything was going ahead.

'It turned out to be a very poignant conversation because the volunteer who took the call lost her husband in action earlier in the year and, of course, his name is among those on the list."

Help for Heroes is a charity that raises money to support members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded.

In just over two years, the charity has raised over £30million through more than 10,000 individual events.

Baby boy gives two-finger salute to the world from inside the WOMB

If Owen Skeffington grows up to show a lack of respect for authority, his parents can hardly complain that he didn't warn them.

A scan taken at 27 weeks clearly shows the infant raising two fingers to the camera.

Such was the hilarity at Royal Preston Hospital that the sonographer asked permission of his parents, Owen senior and Kelly, to put the picture on the wall.

The couple, from Ashton, Preston, who also have three-year-old twins girls, Niamh and Erin, said they couldn't decide whether baby Owen was being rude to them or simply showing how many sisters he has.

His father Owen, 34, joked: 'Luckily, he didn't come out sticking two fingers up!'

Owen's comical antics caused great hilarity at the hospital. The sonographer carrying out the scan even asked for the couple's permission to reproduce the image and put it on the wall for other patients to see.

Kelly has since given birth to Owen at Royal Preson Hospital.

According to popular legend, the rude V-sign was a gesture of defiance first used by English and Welsh archers during the 100 Years War against France.

The French apparently threatened to cut off the arrow-shooting fingers of the longbow men, so the archers would wave these two fingers to show they could still shoot.

Pet dog 'baked to death' after owner left her in car during heat wave

A negligent pet owner left his dog to 'cook to death' inside a boiling hot car while he visited his girlfriend.

The animal, named Sasha, was found dead in the car after worried neighbours called the police and the RSPCA.

Experts said that the inside of the BMW was as hot as an Aga cooker. The dog had died after two hours inside the vehicle which had been parked in direct sun during the heat wave in August, when temperatures outside were in excess of 22 degrees.

When a vet pulled Sasha, a rescued Rottweiler dog, out of the sweltering car her body temperature was so high that the mercury rocketed off the scale of his thermometer.

Sasha's owner James MacDonald was fined £574 pounds after admitting to a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

Magistrates banned him from keeping animals for only a year - meaning he will be allowed to own a dog again.

The court at Banbury, Oxon, heard how the married 42-year-old was visiting a girlfriend at a bed and breakfast guesthouse in Chipping Norton, Oxon, in August this year.

He had taken his dog with him on the journey from his home in Whitton, Middlesex.

Paddy Roche, prosecuting, told JPs how the landlady of the B&B saw MacDonald pull into the car park in his BMW before going to visit his girlfriend.

However, when she left to go to the shops, she noticed the 'distressed' female Rottweiler panting in the back of the saloon car.

'The parking space was in the sun and it was a hot afternoon,' said Mr Roche.

'The landlady went past the car and realised the dog was a Rottweiler and it was in distress.

'It was panting badly with long drawn out pants. Only one of the rear windows was open and it was open by two inches.'

The worried landlady called the RSPCA, who in turn alerted the police before rushing to the scene.

'A PCSO arrived first and, with the help of the landlady's husband, smashed in the driver's window of the car,' added Mr Roche.

'They described the heat of the inside of the car as being like an Aga oven.'

A vet then clambered inside the vehicle and found Sasha wedged in a footwell under the driver's seat of the car, where she had desperately tried to escape from the blistering heat and intense sunlight.

Six bottles of water were also discovered inside the car - but all the tops had been left screwed on.

After her body was pulled out of the car a temperature reading was taken using a thermometer which had a maximum of 42 degrees centigrade.

However, the mercury shot straight off the scale.

Even four hours after her dead body was found, her core temperature read 43 degrees - five degrees more than what a normal dog her size should have been.

A post mortem examination on Sasha's body had suffered multiple organ failure due to the overwhelming heat.

In an RSPCA interview, MacDonald said he was told that animals were not allowed inside the B&B so he was left with no choice but to leave her in the car with the window slightly open.

He told Inspector Will Rippon that he 'loved that dog so much' and wished he could turn the clock back.

Shirley Selby, defending, said the dog's death had been caused by a 'total error of judgment' by MacDonald, who had owned her since she was rescued at the age of two-and-a-half years.

She told JPs that he was 'completely devastated' by the death.

Passing sentence, presiding magistrate Eileen Bussell told him: 'While we accept it was not a deliberate act, you acted in complete negligence by not ensuring you checked on the welfare of the dog when you were away.'

Following the case, Inspector Rippon said: 'This case just highlights how important it is not to leave dogs in cars in hot weather.

'They can overheat so quickly leading to suffering and potential death. I would encourage anyone to think twice before leaving their dog in a car.'