Carnivorous Plants- Beautiful but Deadly
Venus Flytraps always comes to mind when you first think of carnivorous plants. Once an unsuspected insect triggers those sensitive hairs, its folding lobes with those sharp-looking spikes (cilia hairs) closes, entrapping its prey, and there’s no way out. There is excellent news for all those insects; Venus Flytraps are not native to Florida. However, five other carnivorous plants are!
What is a carnivorous plant?
All plants need nutrients to grow, build strength to produce blooms and survive through seasonal dormancy. They obtain this nutrition through their roots. Many plant species have adapted to get that nutrition from different soils within a wide variety of habitats like sandhill and marshes rich in nutrients to grow happy and healthy. Plants also create energy from sunlight through their leaves! This process is called photosynthesis, a neat process because plants can convert that energy from the sun into chemical fuels- sugar! It’s a complicated process.
But some habitats like bogs do not produce enough nutrients for certain plant species to survive in those oxygen-poor environments. They have to find other means to get that nutrition. Ahh, then evolution sets in, and here a variety of plants species evolve over hundreds of years, acquiring adaptations (a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment) and bingo… they become insectivorous plants.
Carnivorous Plant – The Sundew: It’s like, hmm.. my root system can’t absorb enough Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). I need to change something about my plant structure to get those essential nutrients to survive. Oh, I got it. I will grow attractive tentacles that can produce a sticky substance to lure insects. Then I will dissolve their insides with that complicated stuff my awesome self creates and digest all their yummy inner guts for nutrients. YAY for adaptations!
There are different species of carnivorous plants in Florida and each one has its own unique way of attracting or trapping insects.
Like most of the carnivorous plants, especially the really cool pitcher plants are located around Florida’s panhandle, but there are plenty of very unique ones with sticky adaptations located throughout Florida’s wetlands.
Let me introduce you to some of Florida’s strangest but beautiful insect-eating plants.
Pink Sundews are native to Florida and use a ‘flypaper’ system to secure its prey. Pink Sundews are found in sunny, moist soil areas.
Pink Sundews produce a sweet sticky substance (mucilage) made of water and complex sugar. Those hair like tentacles, called stalk glands produce that mucilage at the tip of their sessile glands (glands that absorb nutrients). The mucilage forms a bead resembling a water drop or dew and lures thirsty little insects to them. Once the insect is stuck and can not pull away from this viscoelastic liquid, an elastic substance- sort of like goo mixed with honey but don’t eat it. The sessile glands release digestive enzymes, and soon the plant begins absorbing the insects’ nutrients. This whole process can take up to 30 minutes. That’s a long time for a plant.
Yes this is a bizarre process, but hey, a plant’s got to eat, right?
Interesting Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590509/