By Smriti Daniel
Ever thought you could mess around
with plants and get off scott free? It's no big deal is it? We just
pluck their flowers, break their branches and eat their fruits and
there's nothing a tree or plant can do to stop us…or so you
the years many species of flora have developed ways to protect themselves;
some plants grow sharp thorns that prick while others cause a rash
if you brush up against them. There are some plants however that
manage to be much scarier than the rest - carnivorous plants!
plants capture, kill and digest small animals and insects. They
do this because the soil in which they grow is low in nutrients
and they must find some other way to supplement their diets. They
get their missing nutrients from the insects that they trap. I bet
you're wondering how something so fragile could manage that? Well
their leaves are designed differently so that they can lure and
trap insects with ease.
are hundreds of carnivorous plant species, many of which belong
in different plant families. Here are some of them :
Venus Flytrap: Dionaea muscipula, also known as the Venus Flytrap,
is probably the most well known of all the carnivorous plants. Insects
are lured into the mouth-like leaves by the promise of nectar. As
an insect enters the trap, it brushes up against the tiny hair which
cover the leaves. This movement sends impulses or messages through
the plant that tell the leaves to close tight. The insect is now
firmly trapped inside it's leaf prison and has no way of escaping.
Glands located in the leaves themselves, release enzymes that digest
the poor insect. The nutrients are then absorbed by the leaves and
sent to the rest of the plant.
Species of plants from the plant family Drosera are called Sundews.
These plants are covered with tentacles that produce a sticky dew-like
substance that glitters in the sunlight, hence the name Sundew.
Many unsuspecting insects are attracted by the shining dew and choose
to land on the leaves of the plant. As soon as they land on it,
the insects find themselves stuck to the plant. The tentacles then
close around the insects and digestive enzymes begin their work
- first by breaking down the prey and then by extracting all the
Pitcher plants: Plant species from the plant family Nepenthes are
known as Tropical Pitcher plants. The leaves of these plants are
brightly coloured and shaped like pitchers. Insects who see these
beautiful, bright colours are lured to the plant in search of nectar.
Any hungry insect is met with a nasty surprise however when it discovers
it can't get out of the Pitcher plant's pitcher. This is because
the internal walls of the leaves are covered with waxy scales that
make them very slippery. Insects who perch on the pitcher are very
likely to slip and fall to the bottom of the pitcher and before
they can do a thing they find themselves drenched in the digestive
fluids that the plants secretes.
American Pitcher Plants: Species from the plant family Sarracenia
are called North American Pitcher plants. The leaves of these plants
are also shaped like pitchers. Insects are lured to the plant by
nectar and may slip from the edge of the leaves and fall to the
bottom of the pitcher. In some species, the insects die when they
drown in water that has accumulated at the bottom of the pitcher.
The plant then digests them by releasing it's enzymes into the water.
Species of Utricularia are known as Bladderworts. The name comes
from the tiny sacs, which resemble bladders, that grow on the stems
and leaves of this plant. These plants have a "trapdoor"
mechanism for capturing prey. The sacs have a small membrane cover
that acts as a "door." When tiny insects brush up against
the tiny hair that are located all around the door, they are sucked
into the oval shaped sacs. The door then shuts, trapping the insects
inside the sacs. Digestive enzymes are then released inside the
sacs. These enzymes break down the insect, killing it and absorbing
any nutrients it has to offer. Some of these plants such as the
Swollen bladderwort are aquatic plants. They are free floating,
in the sense that they do not have roots.