True Facts: The Weird World Of Carnivorous Plants


Five years ago... I'm sorry, millions of years ago, a number of plants went through a remarkable adaptation. These photosynthetic plants live in nutrition poor environments often lacking insufficient nitrogen. And, so they evolved the capacity to supplement their diets by trapping and eating animal flesh. Like my Mom used to say, "If you need calcium, eat a milkman." Yep, that's what she said.

Perhaps the most well-known of these carnivorous plants is the Venus flytrap. Its leaves are divided into two lobes hinged along midrib. Small trigger hairs on each lobe are extremely sensitive to touch. When these hairs are bent, ion channels at the base of the hairs opened. This generates an electrochemical signal, which then changes cells in the midrib and allow the lobes which are held under tension to snap shut.

It is truly as if we are watching a subtle gears tick of nature's exquisite... Why did you bleep that? I said, God, you're making it sound like I'm saying... oh okay... The leaves shut in two phases. At first, the closure is fast but only part of the way trapping larger prey, but allowing smaller less nutritious animals to escape. 

Hey... I saw that that is soaked up as if the fly doesn't have enough to worry about. If the right sized insect is captured, the finger like cilia that lines the top of the leaves laced together, eventually forming an airtight seal so that the plant's digestive juices don't leak out and bacteria can't get in.

Over the next five to 12 days, the insect or very unlucky frog is digested after which the flytrap will open again. If this seems grotesque to you, then imagine what a salad looks like to a plant. Think of this is revenge for your mixed greens of horror.

If the flytrap is like getting your arms chopped off by the sneeze screen at a Chili's salad bar, the drosera is dead by lollipop hugging. The drosera is also called the Sundew. It's tiny tentacle hairs glisten as though tipped with a drop of dew. It is in fact not dew but rather mucilaginous secreted by the Sundew's  mucilaginous glands.


Know this mucilaginous is not like that peanut buttery lung cookie throat it up on the subway. This mucilaginous is a thick sticky glue-like substance that both ensnares and digests its prey. The tentacles respond to the slightest touch, causing other tentacles to slowly bend towards the prey and downwards. The more the animal struggles, the more they are entangled in this external stomach. Except if you are this spider. This spider does not give up. Some of the largest carnivorous plants employ a different more passive strategy.

Nepenthes or pitcher plants have modified leaves that act as pitfall traps. Sugary nectar is secreted near the pitchers parastone or rim, drawing insects towards a slippery inner wall which causes prey to fall into and eventually drown in the digestive juices below.

What the hell angle is this for a shot. Huh... the inventor of the Kickstarter toilet cam finally caught a break. Yeah, totally it's for nature videos. Just be hashtag blessed that you don't have to worry about falling into a stomach.

In Borneo, three species of nepenthes engage in a mutualistic interaction with the mountain treeshrew. These plants produce toilet pitchers, which is already two words that should not be that close together. They exude a nectar in a way that is only readily accessible when the shrew places its butt over the pitchers orifice.

It's like a form of payment. Like a restaurant with toilets as seats. It's a lot to take in. Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship, in which each individual benefits from the activity of the other.

The shrew benefits from eating the exuded nectar, while the pitcher plant benefits because someone... in its mouth. Win-win! The feces of the shrew is in fact a simple inefficient way for the plant to receive nutrients. 

And it is a perfect example of one of nature's most fundamental rules. If there is a hole, something will crawl up in there and poop in it. 

You can try this, by the way. Fly down and put some honey on your nose, and open your mouth... 

Transcript by zefrank1.

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