“Lethal Leaves” – Part Two

Nepenthes edwardsianaCarnivorous plants occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica. The reason for the carnivorous design is that all of these plants specialize in nitrogen-poor soil, typically in an acidic environment. To the right is a picture of the carnivorous pitcher plant, Nepenthes. This is only one of many plants that employ a “pitfall trap mechanism,” a cup-like leaf that contains a cocktail of deadly chemicals. The numerous interacting components in the pitcher’s design conspire to create a diabolically effective snare for insects. Nectar and colorful visual cues draw insects into the mouth of the pitcher. Some pitcher species actually combine a narcotic drug with their nectar hastening the insects deadly plunge into the pit.

As the prey enters, the inside of the pitcher typically contains small, downward-facing hairs, that make it easy to traverse further down, but very difficult to crawl back out. What’s more, once it is about halfway down, the insect encounters a layer of wax. Any bug that steps there is doomed: the wax sticks to its feet, causing it to lose its grip and tumble into the vat of digestive juices. Truly this insectivore is a remarkable example of created design in a fallen world!

Posted on September 2, 2016 by dwoetzel.

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