Flesh-Eating Flora Go Ultraviolet

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Posted by @LarryR on
Ranking right up there among the oddities in the world of plants are those that consume living beings to supplement their diets. Most of us are familiar with the ubiquitous Venus fly trap that snaps shut when triggered by an unsuspecting insect. But some of these plants have more in their bag of tricks than we suspected.

Pitcher plant (Nepenthes muluensis)

Until recently, scientists were aware of five basic trapping mechanisms found in carnivorous plants:  snap traps (like the Venus fly trap), pitfall traps (pitcher plants), sticky mucilage traps (sundews), bladder traps that suck in prey (bladderworts), and lobster pot traps with inward-pointing hairs (corkscrew plants).

Researchers have just found a sixth mechanism that is peculiar to pitfall-trap Nepenthes spp. and Sarracenia spp. and the snap-trap Dionaea muscipula.  They glow!

So why hasn’t anyone noticed this before?  Because no one could see it.  The light is in the ultraviolet range and is therefore not visible to the unassisted human eye.  Put these plants under a black light, though, and voilà, they fluoresce.  In the photo at left, I've marked in purple the fluorescent area of a pitcher plant.

To the insect eye, these plants glow naturally.  Given the wily nature of carnivorous plants, it’s not surprising that this glow is located at the entrance to the trap, serving as a bull’s-eye target that insects happily hone in on.

Makes one wonder what plants will think of next.


Other Trapping Plants Listed Above
(Click on photos to sharpen
and enlarge)

 2013-03-21/LarryR/a23101  2013-03-21/LarryR/39e558
Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) Sundew (Drosera anglica) with prey
2013-03-21/LarryR/3b0e15 2013-03-21/LarryR/a91bc1
Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) Corkscrew plant (Genlisea violacea)

All photos are courtesy of wikipedia.org and are used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Untitled by LarryR Dec 23, 2014 12:26 AM 4
Amazing by clintbrown Apr 6, 2013 8:09 AM 6

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