The New York Botanical Garden is a museum of plants, an educational institution, and a scientific research organization. Founded in 1891 and now recognized as a National Historic Landmark, it is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world. http://www.nybg.org/
Carnivorous pitcher plants owe much of their efficacy to the viscoelasticity of their digestive fluid. A viscoelastic fluid’s resistance to deformation has two components: the usual viscous component that resists shearing and an elastic component, often derived from the presence of polymers, that resists stretching - kind of like a liquid rubber band. It’s the latter effect that’s important when it comes to the pitcher plant trapping insects. When a fly or ant falls into the liquid within the plant, it will flail and try to swim, thereby straining the fluid. In part (c) of the image above, you can see how long fluid filaments stretch as the fly moves; this is because the digestive fluid’s extensional viscosity, the elastic component, is 10,000 times larger than its shear viscosity, the usual viscous component, for motions like the fly’s. This viscoelastic fluid is so effective at trapping insects that, as seen in part (b) above, it has to be diluted by more than 95% before insects can escape it! (Image credit: L. Gaume and Y. Forterre)
And to think we just thought botanists and teenage boys thought carnivorous plants were cool … ~AR
There is a serious message behind this humorous sign (and no it’s not the part about violators being fed to the plants). Carnivorous plants are very sensitive to the oils in human skin and it will kill them, especially pitcher plants. There are many species of wild, native carnivorous plants in North America, so if you see them in the wild, look with your eyes, not with your hands. ~AR
Glowing plants? It’s not uncommon for bioluminescence to appear in deep sea fish, some insects, and even fungus, but these pitcher plants are playing a whole different ballgame. Rather than producing light in the human-visible spectrum—often used in nature to ward off or attract other creatures—these pitcher plants (Nepenthes khasiana) produce ultraviolet rays tailored to luring insects home for dinner, so to speak.
As they often grow in nutrient-poor soil, carnivorous plants have evolved their peculiar (for a plant, anyway) appetites to supplement their diet—namely with bugs. And as this ultraviolet wavelength is visible to the prey the pitchers seek, it’s essentially an attractive neon sign for unwitting meals.
Of course, some scientists think this new discovery might be useful to humans, as well. Click through for more. —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.
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%.