Going veggie and green freaks! Six Crazy Carnivorous Plant Facts

Another carnivorous plant facts post is long overdue! I had lots of fun researching for the first carnivorous plant facts post I did, and collected lots of new tidbits and factoids for a new post! Read on to have your mind blown by carnivorous plants once again!

Some carnivorous plants have vegetarian diets! Nepenthes ampullaria has become more vegetarian than carnivorous! Click for more info.

This may seem like a complete paradox, but it’s true! Nepenthes ampullaria for example, creates clusters of rosette pitchers that rest low to the ground and directly on the forest floor. The pitchers have adapted to collecting leaf litter that falls to the ground. Unlike other Nepenthes, N. ampullaria is partially a detritivore, consuming decomposing matter, rather than living matter. (Source.)

Additionally, some species of Utricularia will consume algae and pollen in their traps, sometimes more often than insects. It’s speculated that a “balanced” diet of plant matter and animal matter contribute to better overall health of the plant. In order to consume non-moving plant matter, their traps open without being triggered by movement, to suck in and feed on whatever will fit inside. (Source.)

Smallest genomes, but lots of genes!

Utricularia gibba has one of the smallest genomes in the plant world, yet the highest amount of genes! Click for more info.

This gets a bit science-y, so bear with me! Utricularia and Genlisea were  recently found to have some of the smallest genomes in the plant world. Basically, the smallest amount of genetic material. However, Utricularia gibba was discovered to have ridiculously high amounts of genes within that small genome. This means it lacks “junk” DNA and only keeps DNA that is essential to the plant’s survival. Click here for further info and explanation! 

Know thy location data!

Flava var. ornata Gulf Coast, FL. Photo by Mike Wang.
Flava var. ornata Gulf Coast, FL. Photo by Mike Wang.

Knowing location data for carnivorous plants has become increasingly important for serious collectors. As more natural habitats disappear and become scarce, collectors want to know where their plant originated from. Location data can also tell about the genetics of the plant and how genetically diverse that location is. This is most common with Sarracenia, but I’ve also begun to see it with Venus Flytraps. Sarracenia location data is most often the county and state of where it was originally found in the wild. For example, S. leucophylla Baldwin Co., AL originated in Baldwin County, Alabama. Sometimes the location data is incorporated into the cultivar name, such as Sarracenia “Brunswick Beauty” which originates from Brunswick County, North Carolina.

Anthocyanin-free plants (It’s not easy being green!) 

Anthocyanin-free sarracenia purpurea heterophylla
Antho-free Sarracenia purpurea. Photo by Mike Wang.

Anthocyanin is the pigment that gives plants their stunning array of colors. Those crazy colors are partly why carnivorous plants are so attractive! However, in rare occurrences, some plant do not produce any anthocyanin at all. These are called anthocyanin-fee (or antho-free) plants, and are known for being strikingly bright green. They’re often rare and prized specimens in collections, though not everyone is into them. I think they’re beautiful, but someone who is really, really REALLY into them is Rob Co of the Pitcher Plant Project. Check out all his stunning photos of his antho-free plants here!

Fasciation (not to be confused with fascination, though one may lead to the other)

Crested growth on Pinguicula.
Photo by dvg on Terraforums

Fasciation is also known as “crested growth” and rarely happens in carnivorous plants. When it does, it’s pretty freaky! There are several different types of crested growth. For example, instead of a rosette growing out circularly from a single center growth point, some plants will grow linearly, forming a line. Crestates are more common with succulents, and can be caused by hormonal imbalances in the cells, pests, bacterial or viral infections, or random genetic mutations. Check out this Terraforums thread for photos of crazy crested pinguicula!

Symbiotic relationships (I love you, you love me, blah blah great big family blah blah…)

Carpenter ants in a symbiotic relationship with Nepenthes bicalcarata.
Photo by Christian Ziegler

 

In my last post on carnivorous plant facts, I touched briefly on one example of a symbiotic relationship between pitcher plants and animals (it was the one about bat poop). Turns out, lots of animals have resisted becoming plant prey and learned to benefit from the plant instead. A certain species of carpenter ant can dive into and swim in the digestive juices of Nepenthes bicalcarata without dying! It lives in the plants stem and will remove large insects from the pitchers that would throw off the chemistry in the pitcher and cause it to rot.

The nectar of Nepenthes rajah provides a sweet treat to tree shrews and nocturnal rats. The critters sit on the peristome to feed, and fertilize the pitcher with… care to guess? Yep, their poop and pee! Check out this National Geographic article for more info and stunning photos!

Do you have an amazing, cool, crazy carnivorous plant fact you’re dying to share? Let me know in a comment!

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