Imagine walls closing in on you suddenly out of nowhere! The more you move, the faster the walls close. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? While this may happen to us only in our nightmares, some beings are not that lucky!
Meet the Venus Flytrap or VFT, a plant that makes this horrifying experience a possibility for insects.
This plant is unique in more ways than one. First of all, it’s a carnivorous plant i.e. it derives most of its nutrients by trapping insects or microorganisms and dissolving them. Their trap is a pair of leaves that consist of cilia (finger-like projections) and hair. These leaves act as jaws and stomach of the plant. The cilia helps the plant retain the insects trapped in and bacteria out of the process. If you want to imagine how that works, place an eraser in one of your palms and shut both your palms tightly, and lock it up with your fingers. That’s exactly what happens. The cilia prevents trapped prey from falling out. In a way, cilia are the plant’s fingers. Ideally found in soil that is low in nutrients like sand, VFT is also unique in its appearance.
The most bizarre fact of all is that this plant can count! Yes, you read that right. Well, not aloud! Dr Hedrich, Jennifer Böhm, and Sönke Scherzer, biophysicists at the University of Tasmania, found that using the trigger hair on the surface of its leaves, VFTs can count the number of movements of a landing prey. This is to correctly identify the prey on its surface.
Since there are a lot of random things that could land on the surface of its leaves like water droplets or windblown debris, the plant does not want to waste its energy on things that are not edible. Hence, it counts when the hair on its surface is touched by a moving insect.
After that, the leaves trap the prey and release digestive enzymes. These enzymes turn the bug into a nourishing soup for the plant. The digestive process takes anywhere from five to twelve days depending on the size of the prey trapped. After this, the leaves reabsorb the enzymes and open themselves for new prey.
As weird, yet interesting this plant is, it is not the only carnivorous plant. There are others like the Pitcher plant, Pinguicula, Bladderworts, etc
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