1. They are the fastest killers on the planet.
Everyone knows the about the Venus Fly Trap, but Bladderworts are faster than the blink of an eye. Their traps are sacs that the plant pumps out all the water from. Then it waits. When a victim knocks the hair-trigger the trap opens. The acceleration is 600G, more than 20 times the force an astronaut feels at launch. The first the victim knows about it is when it’s inside the trap and being digested alive. Yumsk!
2. They kill in broad daylight.
Normally monsters hide in the shadows, but not carnivorous plants. Like other plants, most of their food comes from photosynthesis. What they get from eating meat is a small amount of trace elements that they need. In fact scientists put some pitcher plants on a diet to find out what they did with their food. What they found is that plants fed meat were much better at photosynthesis and were able to flower. Any killer plant that wants healthy offspring won’t be lurking in a dark alley. They’ll be out in the sunshine where you least expect it. Om nom nom!
3. They will mislead you to your doom if they can.
Ever had a nightmare where you’re trapped in maze and you can’t get out? Welcome to the world of Darlingtonia californica, the Cobra Lily. The Cobra lily entices flies up into its hood. They enter from the bottom, drink the nectar and then try to fly off, but flies are easily misled. Ever seen a fly thunk again and again against a window? The Cobra Lily has translucent patches in it’s hood making them like windows. The fly keeps trying to find a way out through them. It never finds the real way out because that’s facing the darker ground. It gets deeper into the plant until it drops down the Cobra Lily’s gullet. Guuuulp!
4. They are constantly adapting their killing techniques.
Pitcher plants look like they could be the original couch potatoes, just sitting there waiting for lunch to drop in. In fact recent research shows they adapt their trapping technique to their local environment. Normally they’d have wax inside that could causes water roll off the surface, and insects using damp feet to grip, to slip and fall. Pitchers growing in humid regions have evolved other techniques. They use the damp environment to make their surfaces slippery with few footholds unless you’re walking into the trap. Some plants have found they can trap flying insects better by developing a fluid that becomes more glue-like when an insect flaps around in it. Wet or dry, pitcher plants are always refining their traps to make it easy for you to drop in. Slurrrp!
5. They are masters of surprise.
You’d think that any sensible person could escape the clutches of a carnivorous plant by staying well away from their traps. If that’s the case then the Pimpernel sundew has a surprise for you. Usually sundews work by wrapping their leaves around an insect, but the Pimpernel sundew has an extra trick. It has a catapult that flings insects into the middle of their glue-covered leaves. Then the leaf wraps round the victim and starts digesting it as it struggles. Nom!
6. They want to feel your fear.
It’s not just pitcher plants that catch franticly wriggling insects. Even nastier is the Venus Fly Trap - it wants its prey to struggle. Any insect that enters the trap will trigger it, if it knocks two hairs within a few seconds of each other. The leaves snap shut, with the only way out blocked off with what look like bars. Anything small that’s not worth the plant’s effort to digest can escape. The triggers stop getting knocked. But a bigger insect will struggle and keep triggering the hairs, telling the plant there’s something worth eating. The trap closes tighter and tighter as its victim makes its final efforts to escape being eaten alive. Kaa-runch!
7. Despite being merciless killers, everyone loves them.
Scientists love carnivorous plants. They evolved independently in several different ways to solve the same problem, so they’re a working example of how evolution hones in a technique. They can also be used for experiments on enzymes, tracking food webs or cell communication. In order to become carnivorous, they’ve had to become extraordinarily complex. It’s because there’s so much that people can learn from them that botanists write papers like: Quite a few reasons for calling carnivores ‘the most wonderful plants in the world’. And they’ll probably keep doing that till an accident in a lab somewhere ends with a sudden Chomp!
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