Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

August 22, 2008

A Predatory Plant

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:10 pm

 Behold the Bladderwort – the one carnivorous plant that eludes the public “carnivorous” plant list (if, indeed, there is such a thing).  Venus Flytraps, Pitcher Plants, and Sundews get all the attention but they are relatively hard to find. You need to go to a slightly exotic location, such as a bog, to find them.  The Bladderworts, on the other hand, grow in the unremarkable setting of your local marsh.  While this is not exactly in your backyard, it’s pretty close.

  This thing doesn’t really look predatory.  Without jaws, sticky tendrils or large gaping death pits, they appear harmless enough. As rootless aquatics, they hang about just under the surface and float through life. About the only way to recognize their presence is to spot the conspicuous yellow flower spikes that occasionally peek up among the lily pads.  These too appear very “tame” – looking very much like snap dragons (see above).

  Internally, however, the Bladderwort desires more out of life than simple photosynthesis. Beneath that cool green exterior it craves for things like extra phosphorus and other essential minerals. These are needs that can only be satisfied by capturing and eating animals.

  The secret carnivorous life of the “wort” can only be discovered upon close investigation. Take a look here at a whole plant and you’ll see the mass of greenery at the base of the flower stalk. Closer examination will reveal clusters of berry-like growths peppered among the finely divided leaves. These are the bladders (see here) for which the species gets its name.  Each structure acts as a trap to capture and digest micro-crustaceans and insect larvae. The bladderwort does have death pits -very very tiny death pits, but death pits none-the-less!

  Bladder traps work on the pressure system. Water is pumped out in order to create a vacuum inside the chamber which is sealed with a door flap. Several bristles stick out from the bottom of the door to act as a trigger mechanism.

  When a hapless little beast such as a Water Flea bumbles into one of the hair triggers the trap is sprung. In a literal flash of a second (10-15 thousands of a second to be precise) the bladder door opens in and the critter is sucked in. Before the prey has time to react or even think about escape, the door slams shut.  This entire capture sequence is totally automatic.

  The final stage of the predatory scenario is enacted by digestive enzymes that slowly dissolve the entombed micro-creature.  I wonder if a Water Flea can scream?

1 Comment »

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    Comment by Natural Flea Remedies — January 8, 2011 @ 7:56 am

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