Exciting carnivorous plant news everybody! An unusual aquatic bladderwort last seen on the Isle of Man in 1998 has been rediscovered in a pond. The plant lives in very nutrient poor conditions, and makes up for it by using small sacks (the bladder in the name) to capture tiny aquatic invertebrates like water fleas. The plant is also common to the other British Isles. Always fun to get introduced to a new carnivorous plant though, isn’t it? ~AR
There’s really no need to editorialize this video showing carnivorous plants in 3D from the John Innes Centre, so I’ll just say, if you want to learn more, read this Scientific American blog post. ~AR
sundew (drosera) consuming a syrphid fly
As I’m sure you know carnivorous plants do not actually have nerves and muscles which allow them to close around (and then slowly consume) insects. The actions you see above are accomplished through a complicated chain of events wherein different cells within the plant expand and elongate to capture the prey. And yet somehow, this knowledge doesn’t make it any less creepy! ~AR
Okay, so I totally missed posting this in time for Halloween, but let’s be honest, any day is a good day for a spoooooooky video from Dr. Chris Martine! Martine, an Associate Professor of Biology at Bucknell is the genius behind the YouTube series “Plants Are Cool, Too!” and I am a huge fan. You should be, too, if you want to be as cool as plants are, that is.~AR
I had reblogged a small piece on the sundew a week or so ago, but the involved image looked more like a science project than a plant. Here is an Australian sundew that really does the carnivorous little beast justice. —MN
These Australian sundew plants (Drosera stolonifera) may look innocent, but in reality they are one of the most cleverly disguised carnivorous plants. Bugs are attracted to what appear to be drops of dew to satiate their thirst, only to be trapped in the sticky decoy tentacles.
(Photo via National Geographic)
Ignore the fact that the sundew uses its “mucilage” to ensnare insects and dissolve them into a “nutrient soup” for absorption and you have a very pleasant addition to your window sill. —MN
Sundew plants are carnivorous, consuming insects by capturing them with small adhesive balls on the ends of their tentacles. The sundew’s adhesive has remarkable elasticity, stretching to 1 million times its normal size (most rubber bands can only stretch to six times their original size). Such elasticity would make the adhesive dew secreted from the plant an effective choice for coating replacement body parts, regenerating dying tissues, healing wounds and improving synthetic adhesives. It is also economical—it’s so sticky and elastic that less than a microliter (smaller than the period at the end of a sentence) would cover 25 millimeters squared (or the size of George Washington’s face on a dollar bill).
“We usually think about leaves only as photosynthetic organs, so at first sight, it looks awkward that a plant would place its leaves underground where there is less sunlight.”
Leaves underground? Seems evolution didn’t clue this organism in to how this whole thing really works. Or so you’d think. Professor Rafael Oliveira is discussing an increasingly rare plant known as Philcoxia minensis, found only in the savannah regions of Brazil. I can safely say that its secret talent is an entirely new breed of weird. — MN
We love carnivorous plants, but who doesn’t? They’re completely fascinating and a little bit creepy. And now the world has a newly recognized one.
The ‘Queen of Hearts’ plant, now known as Nepenthes robcantleyt, was discovered in the wilds of Borneo in the 80s, and though speculation has swirled that the giant plant—capable of “eating” small rodents as well as insects—is of an unknown species, it took until just this year for one of our colleagues at Kew to confirm it as such.
From the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden at NYBG.
Our new educators rescued a few abandoned sundews left over from summer teacher trainings. Let’s see how they fare under our watchful eye. Hopefully a little love and some juicy insects will give them back their will to survive. What will be our next rescue mission? Give us your withered, your dry, your forgotten plants yearning to be cared for!
A nice profile of Dr. Larry Mellichamp, University of North Carolina, Charlotte botany professor, carnivorous plants expert, and author of the new book Bizarre Botanicals. Dr. Mellichamp works in one of the climates most hospitable to these strange plants, and yet the habitat of the most famous, the Venus Flytrap, has diminished by 90%.