Saturday, April 18, 2009

TARHEEL TRIVIA: Insectivorous Plant

Eons ago, a friend and I sat for a brief time in a theater watching Little Shop of Horrors. It’s not the sort of movie I gravitate toward but we’d already walked out on The Name of the Rose and Three Amigos. (Clearly it was a bad day at the movies.)

We endured the little shop for only a short while because I have no patience for stories about plants that devour human beings.

I was familiar with carnivorous plants, having grown up in North Carolina, home of the Venus Fly Trap. Of course, it was mostly head knowledge learned in social studies class but a plant that "eats" insects is one of those facts that sticks with a 7th grader.

I’ve seen Venus Fly Traps - but never growing in the wild. Perhaps that’s because their natural habitat is strictly within a 100 mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina. They live in the boggy savannahs of the Carolinas which I typically pass on my way to the beach.

A few facts:

  • Venus Fly Trap has stiff sensitive hairs on its leaves
  • When an insect bends the hairs, the lobes of the leaf snap together, trapping it inside
  • The leaves excrete digestive juices which break down and utilize the softer inner parts of the insect.
  • When the digestive process is finished the plant opens and the ecoskeleton blows away.
  • The plant grows best in poor soil and thrives on the nutrients provided by insects.
  • The Venus Flytrap was discovered in 1763 by Arthur Dobbs, governor of North Carolina.

For pictures and much more info, visit this site.

For a video visit to a flytrap in its natural habitat click here. (Unless, of course, you'd rather not see the hard facts of the food chain in action. But it's a David Attenborough, BBC wildlife video that is more science than drama.)

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