Sep 27, 2010

Beautiful Carnivorous Plants

They’re pretty but deadly … if you’re an insect, that is. Dark Roasted Blend has a nice gallery (as always) of some of nature’s most gorgeous carnivorous plants. 

Venus Flytrap - The poster-plant for botanical carnivores has got to be the legendary Venus Flytrap. A resident of swamps and bogs, the flytrap has evolved a dramatic solution to its lack-of-nutrient diet: it catches flies – and pretty much anything big enough to get caught. What's amazing about this plant is its mechanism. Anything that happens to stumble between the two halves of its unique mechanism will find itself in caught in a quickly-snapping-shut botanical bear trap. What's even worse is that after being caught the Venus then fuses those leaves together, turning them into a kind of stomach to digest its prey. What's extra-fascinating is that the trap has two triggers, and that both of them have to be tripped for the leaves to snap shut, to avoid misfires.

The Sundew - Another device carnivorous plants use is to make their prey stick around long enough to be digested. The sundew, for instance, has leaves covered with dozens of tiny stalks, and each stalk is covered with very, very, very sticky stuff. When a bug happens to walk across these leaves it gets – you guessed it – very, very, very stuck. What's more, though, is that the plant then contracts, bringing more and more of those stalks into contact with its prey, completely trapping and then digesting it.

Pitcher plants - These carnivores come in a wide variety of shapes, types, and sizes. Most pitchers feast on bugs and sometimes small lizards - pretty much whatever's unfortunate enough to get seduced by the plant's alluring smells and small enough to fit down its leafy throat.

Cobra Lily - The rare California pitcher plant is also called a cobra lily for its bulbous head, forked tongue, and long tubular pitcher. It grows in mountainous parts of the West Coast and is an oddity among its kind. Although it traps prey in a manner similar to other pitcher plants, its leaves contain no digestive enzymes. Instead, it relies on symbiotic bacteria to turn captured insects into usable nutrients.

1 comment:

AK Sci Teacher said...

This is great information! My seventh graders really enjoyed learning about such interesting plants!