Carnivorous Plants, the luring, capturing and digesting mechanisms they have evolved to devour insects, augment their supply of mineral nutrients and enable them to survive in habitats where few other plants can live.
Those flowering plants that have evolved the carnivorous habit can be divided into two groups according to their methods of catching prey: active trapper and passive trappers.
About a quarter of a million species of flowering plants exist on the earth today, and of them some 400 are known to be carnivorous. They belong to thirteen or so genera of six families.
The plants are most often found in nutrient-poor communities: on heaths or in bogs, on impoverished soil in forest openings, and occasionally on marl, the crumbly clay soil associated with weathered limestone.
Can plants really be carnivorous?
- Carnivorous plants can't be kept in any old flower pot like ordinary plants. They require deluxe treatment.
- All of them are highly specialized organisms designed to get their food “on the fly” rather than suck it up through their roots as do most other plants.
- They usually grow in sandy, acid soil where ordinary plants would starve to death for lack of nitrogen.
- The carnivorous plants don't get their nitrogen out of the soil; their roots couldn’t absorb it even if it were there.
- They depend on the corpses of their victims to supplement their diet.
- They are also mostly bog plants and require a moist atmosphere and acid soil, well drained.
- They are fed insects or small pieces of meat with tweezers.
- Once an insect has been trapped in the carnivorous plant known as the "Venus-flytrap", it exudes a digestive fluid from the inside of its leaves that gradually dissolves the victim, which then is absorbed by the trap.
- Venus flytraps may have a dozen or so traps stretched out in all directions on the ends of their long stalks, all open and waiting.
- The butterworts have about the simplest setup of the carnivorous plants. They exude a greasy substance which feels like butter when a leaf is rubbed between the fingers.
Once an insect lands on a leaf, it's caught.
- Then the leaf slowly curls around him, special glands discharge digestive acids, and the insect is slowly eaten away.
- These digestive acids are so powerful that Laplanders use the leaves to curdle reindeers’ milk to make cheese.
- The “sundews” are considerably more complicated carnivorous plants.
- Their stalks radiate out from a central point like the spokes of a wheel.
- At the tip of each stalk is a round, flat leaf like a miniature water lily pad, covered with small tentacles.
- In each pad is a special gland that produces a tiny drop of mucilage.
- These drops shine in the sun like dewdrops (hence the plant’s name) and serve as lure for insects.
- If an insect comes in to take a drink, he finds himself trapped and then the tentacles go into action, covering the struggling insect until it's helpless.
- One of the biggest of the sundews (Drosera filiformis) has leaves over a foot long and can catch grasshoppers and butterflies.
Other carnivore plants, known as "pitcher plants", all operate on the same principle of having a pit for their victims to fall into.
- Those that specialize in winged prey are vine-like growths, some 70 feet tall, with the pitchers hanging from the stem at regular intervals.
- The others grow in clusters on the ground and trap ants, beetles, and possibly mice.
- In all cases, the pitcher is simply an open stomach.
- Rain water collects in the pitchers and the plant squirts digestive juices into the water.
- When anything falls in, the plant digests it much as food is digesteed in an animal’s stomach.
- The more the victim struggles to get out of the deadly pitcher, the more digestive acid the plant discharges.
Note: There is much more information available about these fascinating plants. In fact, there are several web sites that specialize in the subject of carnivorous plants.
The main vorous list of words.
Cross references of word families that are related directly, or indirectly, to: "food, nutrition, nourishment":
Eating Crawling Snacks;
Eating: Folivory or Leaf Eaters;