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CARNIVOROUS PLANTS

 

Plants that eat meat! That sounds unbelievable isn’t it? But, it is true. Such plants do exist. Not one or two kinds, about 600 different kinds of them have been found. But why do these plants eat meat?

Plants can prepare their own food. They get everything they need from sunlight, air, water and soil. Yes. Even carnivorous plants prepare their own food like the rest of the plants. However they grow in bogs or marshes, and boggy soil does not contain enough minerals, for the plants to grow well.

Carnivorous plants make up for this by eating bugs or insects. Plants however cannot move around like animals can. They do not have hands or teeth. They catch their food by creating some unique traps. Then they slowly digest it.

 
There are two main types of traps:

Active traps:

Where a part of the plant moves to catch the meal.

Passive traps:

Where plants don’t move. They use baits like nectar to lure the insects.

 

 

Here are some examples of Active traps:

1)Venus flytrap:

This is a very interesting plant. The tips of the leaves of this plant are actually small traps with spines along the edges. Each plant has about 7 traps.

On the trap is a bright red spot covered with nectar. Insects are attracted to the red color and the sweet smell of nectar and land on the leaf. Three tiny hairs on each leaf act as triggers.

As soon as the insect touches these hairs, in less than a second the trap snaps shut. Then digestive enzymes are secreted and the food is slowly digested by the plant.

2)Bladderwort:

This plant has devised another clever way to catch its prey. It sucks up small insects like a vacuum cleaner. Bladderworts are among the most common of carnivorous plants. They grow in very wet places. Even float on the ponds.

The plants’ stem and flowers are above the water. They have beautiful, orchid like flowers. The roots are under the water. On these roots there are a number of traps that look like tiny pouches. Each trap has a little door and also hairs that act as triggers..

If a tiny water flea or insect touches the hairs, the trap door suddenly opens, the insect is sucked in and the trap door closes. All this happens in the split of a second, faster than the eye can see. The insect is then slowly digested in the pouch.

Here are some examples of passive traps:

1)Pitcher plants:

Unlike Venus flytrap or bladderworts, the pitcher plants don’t move. They catch their prey in a pitcher full of water and digestive juices. There are many different kinds of pitcher plants. The tropical pitcher plants are usually vines.

The pitchers look like hanging pouches. The plant’s pitcher is actually a modified leaf. The tip of the leaf grows into an unusual pitcher like shape. At the tip is a hood which acts like a landing pad for insects and also prevents rainwater from entering the pitcher.

Pitcher plants vary in sizes. They can be very small, that can trap insects the size of ants. Or very big, to trap small mammals like rats, frogs or small birds. Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia is the home to the largest and most spectacular pitcher plants.

Pitcher plants also use bright colors and nectars as baits for the insects. But the rim and inner walls of the pitcher are extremely slippery. Once an insect lands on the rim and walks in the pitcher for nectar, it starts slipping and cannot get out of the pitcher.
It finally falls in the liquid at the base of the pitcher and drowns. The pitcher plant then slowly digests its meal.

 

Another kind of pitcher plant grows, in the wet swampy areas in United States. These places are called the” pitcher plant bogs”. These pitcher plants look very different from the tropical pitcher plants. They do not hang on a vine. They grow like little trumpets from the ground. These too, come in different shapes and sizes.

 

2)Sundew:

Sundew plants look very beautiful. Every leaf of a Sundew plant is covered with hair like tentacles. And every tentacle has a drop of sticky glue at its tip. These drops shine like dewdrops in the sunlight. That is how the plant got its name.

When an insect smells the plant’s nectar and lands on it, it gets stuck in the glue. The sticky tentacles start wrapping around the insect’s body. The more the insect struggles, the tighter the leaf grips it. Then the tentacles secrete an acid that digests the insect.

3)Butterwort:

This plant is not very common. The leaves in this plant are near the base of the plant. The surface of the leaves is completely sticky. Insects and flies stick on the leaves. Then they get slowly digested.

Can these meat eating plants harm humans? No. Most of these carnivorous plants are very small. Even the biggest of carnivorous plants, the “monkey pot pitcher” is small for humans.

We can find these plants in the wild, in bogs and marshes. Or in zoos and botanical gardens. Unfortunately some of these plants are endangered.

 
We can grow these plants at home, and watch them in action. Many nurseries grow them and sell them.