Saturday, December 06, 2014

Carnivorous Plants

They may look like things from your nightmare or a monster movie, but believe it or not, carnivorous plants are quite real and may not be something that you expect.

So why became carnivorous?

Imagine living in a nutrient-poor soil as a plant. Now, what to do? There are approximately 400 known species of carnivorous plants and most of these plants are living in nutrient-poor environments, like sandy soils, or on swamp bog so they have to get the needed nutrient from other means. The best way is to trap some insects, dissolved their bodies and use the nutrients.

How they trap insects for food?

Carnivorous plants digest insects through a process of chemical breakdown analogous to digestion in animals. The end products, particularly nitrogenous compounds and salts, are absorbed by the plants. These plants uses different method of catching their prey, and botanists have grouped them into 2 basic types: but the procedure is always the same: Those whose traps are mechanical of moving and those with traps that don’t move at all. However, all of these traps work by offering them treats, like sweet sap or nectars so that it will attract insects to enter.

These are the following types of traps:
Pitfall Traps: Carnivorous plants of the pitcher plant families (Darlingtonia and Sarracenia of the Sarraceniaceae, and Nepenthes of the Nepenthaceae) use a “pitcher-like” modified leaf filled with water. Insects are lured by anthocyanin pigments and nectars in the rim of their leaves. So, when an insect stops by to investigate, it will slip inside the pitcher and fall in the water inside it. Special hairs will prevent the insect for climbing back to the top. Inside the pitcher, the insect will drown and bacterias and enzyme will dissolve the insect and the plant will absorb the nutrients.

Suction Traps: Bladderworts are mostly aquatic plants living in fresh water around the world. Very small bladder-like nodules are scattered in the plant. These bladders created a vacuum (because of osmosis pressure) which sucks Daphnia, and other micro-organism inside it where it will be trapped and will be dissolved by digestive secretions.

Fly Paper: These are those carnivorous plants with leaves that have specialized hair that contains some sticky sap that trap insects like fly paper. The Drosera, commonly known as the sundews, covers one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants with this kind of specialty. The sundew plant attracts insect with nectars on their sticky leaves and when an unsuspecting insect landed on those leaves, it will be trapped in those sticky hairs and will be digested by enzymes.

Snap Traps: The best example of this is the Venus Fly-Trap. The leaves have stiff hairs around the edge of the blade which becomes interlocked when the blade folds closed, thus trapping the insect  in a jail cell. This trigger mechanism is activated when an insect touches a special kind of hair in the leaves of the plant. The Waterwheel Plant is another example of this “snap trap” carnivorous plant. This plant leaves in water and it traps minute aquatic invertebrates.

Rainbow Traps: Plants of the genus Byblis are good examples. The plants have narrow leaves and are covered with tiny stalks that have clear liquid. These liquids are like “glue” which traps insects, also it gives the plant a sparkly color, hence the name “raindow traps.”

Lobster-pot trap: These are plants that have special chambers that will allow prey to enter, but not exit because it is either difficult to find or obstructed by inward-pointing bristles. The corkscrew plant (Genlisea) are good examples of these plants and most of these plants live in water.

Pitfall Traps - North American Pitcher plants belong to the genus Sarracenia.
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a good example of a plant that uses a snap trap

The bladderwort,  Utricularia genus of carnivorous plants in the family Lentibulariaceae (order Lamiales).
Byblis is native to Australia and typically is a desert plant.
Drosera, commonly known as the sundews, comprise one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, with at least 194 species. 
Carnivorous plants are quite rare. Most lives  in sodden heaths, swamps, bogs, and sloppy or sandy shores where water and light are in any event occasionally rich and where nitrogenous materials are regularly rare. Other carnivorous plants live in places where there is a high concentration of ammonium or almost immeasurable levels of nitrate and calcium.

On the whole, carnivorous plants are relatively small plants, but size variation is enormous even within the same genus. The majority are herbaceous perennials which grow less than 30 cm (1 foot) high, often only 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches). Some species of Nepenthes, however, become large shrubby vines. Drosera species vary from a few centimeters to 1 m (3 feet) or more in height (D. gigantea); the smallest are often hidden among the moss of a sphagnum bog.

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