Meet these Meat Eating Plants
Carnivorous plants are the subversion of what's expected from nature; it's almost an affront to the pride of animal life that a plant could overpower a thinking, moving creature. Yet, thousands of insects are lured daily by predatory plants, slipping into slicked traps, imbibing in sweetly toxic nectar, or getting snatched with surprising speed. Insectivorous plants are scattered worldwide - and many of them evolved independently despite having similar appearances and trapping mechanisms. Here are a few awesome examples from the main categories of carnivorous plant families out there for you to check out!
Many pitcher plants, such as this Nepenthes Iowii variety, trap insects with a fly-paper strategy. When insects (or even larger animals) fall into their long, tube-like bodies, they get stuck in the plant's sticky digestive fluids. Some of these nepenthes varieties of pitcher plants will even secrete a very slippery fluid on their outer rim so that insects slip and fall down into their lower, sticky regions.
These water-dwelling carnivorous plants commonly known as the Bladderwort (though known technically as the utricularia aurea) has a very sophisticated mechanism for trapping insects. It pumps water out of tiny bladders, lowering its internal pressure and creating a kind of vacuum. When an insect swims past, an electrical impulse is stimulated that causes the plants flaps to open and suck the creature inside.
To trap insects, drosera varieties of carnivorous plant usually lure their prey in with sweet nectar. Then, once the insect is busied with the task of consuming it, the plant will curl its long, sticky tentacle-like limbs tightly around the insects body and release digestive enzymes, absorbing the now soup-y insect's nutrients through various glands.
Dionaea muscipula, colloquially known as the Venus Flytrap, lures flies and insects by secreting a sweet nectar. Once a fly lands and brushes against any one of the flytrap's hairs, it triggers a tiny electrical charge. If another charge is triggered within a certain short amount of time, the trapping mechanism of the plant is activated and it will shut closed in about 1/10th of a second.
This North American variety of pitcher plant actually evolved independently of the nepenthes varieties, though they share very similar visual characteristics and employ virtually identical trapping methods.
Most carnivorous plants are highly sensitive to environmental changes, since it is posited that only a specific type of environment could cause plants to rely on insect consumption rather than photosynthesis to acquire nutrients. Bogs, for example, have poor soil, which means that plants growing there would need to absorb their allotment of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other critical nutrients from different sources, and tons of sunlight, which means even a plant as poor at photosynthesis as these can still benefit from it if need be.
If you'd like to find out more about carnivorous plants, this article from National Geographic contributor, Carl Zimmer, is an excellent read. The photo gallery provided through National Geographic that includes many different species of carnivorous plants is also definitely worth checking out!
Photo Credits: Wikipedia Commons