A Moment of Science

Sticky and Deadly

You've probably heard of the venus flytrap, but did you know there are other types of flesh-eating plants? Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Predatory pitcher shaped plant

Photo: richardsinyem (flickr)

Pitcher plants like this one in Malaysia use a sticky fluid on the inside of their pitcher shaped leaves to catch prey

You’ve probably heard of the venus flytrap, but did you know there are other types of flesh-eating plants?

For example, the pitcher plant, found throughout the Asian tropics, has leaves that form, well, a pitcher. The leaves are slippery, so when insects land on the pitcher’s rim, they sometimes fall in and get caught in a sticky fluid. Once in the fluid, they are digested by the plant.

However, what’s interesting, is that for a long time scientists thought that the plants were passive hunters. That is, insects happened to fall in and the liquid in the pitcher did the rest. However, French researchers have discovered that the liquid actively ensnares unlucky bugs with powerful filaments, or threads. The more the bugs struggle, the more they get stuck.

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