BLOODTHIRSTY PLANTS: THE STATIONARY CARNIVORES – PART 1
Plants surround us in our daily lives providing beautification and shade for weary people. In actuality though plants do much more then we can imagine. By far, the most important thing a plant does is produce oxygen which is a requirement for most life to survive. In addition in order to produce oxygen, they break down carbon dioxide, which we all produce as a byproduct of breathing. This oxygen producing process is called photosynthesis and it provides the plant with its energy requirements. Besides energy, plants also need nutrients to survive, the most important of which being nitrogen. Most plants obtain this nitrogen from the soil but a very special group of plants have found a new source for their nitrogen and that source is other organisms.
Carnivorous plants usually take up residence in areas with very poor soil nutrients. This is an advantageous position to be in as very few plants are capable of surviving in such low nutrient soil conditions so competition is low. In order to capture prey, these plants have developed a variety of mechanisms. The first and most commonly known is the snap trap showed most famously by the Venus Flytrap. This trap works off a simple mechanism. The mouth of the trap has small hairs randomly strewn across it. If an insect triggers two of these hairs within a very short span of time, the jaws slam shut and begin filling with digestive fluids to consume the prey. Next are the Pitfall traps, which are very abundant and widespread. The main and most known pitfall trap plant is the Pitcher Plant. The Pitcher Plant looks like its namesake and is usually filled with a series of digestive compounds. The way it catches its prey is to attract them with a scent. Then once they land on the lip of the pitcher its only a matter of time before they simply slip into the digestive fluids. This is because the rim of the pitcher is incredibly slippery. There are other types of pitcher plants that utilize bacteria and protists instead of digestive fluids to breakdown the prey that falls in. The Pitcher Plants that contain the bacteria and protists simply consumes their byproducts instead of directly consuming the prey. Usually small prey are the Pitcher Plants choice but, there is a type of Pitcher Plant from the Philippines that has evolved big enough to consume prey as large as rats.
The third and last carnivorous plant trap type is the flypaper trap. This one may be quite self explanatory but some carnivorous plants add a little flair to their flypaper traps. My personal favorite plant with this type of trap is the Sundew. The Sundew looks alot like a succulent, except on each of its leaves it has numerous amounts of pink tendrils. Each tendril ends in a sticky substance to trap prey. When an insect lands on the sundew it will inevitably touch one of these tendrils. When it does it will try to retreat which will only lead it into more sticky tendrils. Now is where the sundew starts to do a bit of work. The leaf or arm that has captured the insect will begin to fold onto itself very slowly until it has crushed and consumed its prey. The arm then unravels to await the next visitor.