Let’s Talk About: Venus Flytraps

Hirts_Venus_Flytrap

Are Venus flytraps still popular?  Cause if they’re not, they should be.  It’s like plants were tired of being made fun of, so they made a badass, meat eating anomaly to protect them in the playground.  Seriously, these plants kick some serious insect ass.  For those of you who don’t know about Venus flytraps, simply put they’re plants who got tired of just living off of sunlight, and decided that being carnivorous would be a lot more fun (I think that’s how evolution works…right?).  Anyways, if all plants were more like Venus flytraps I might actually have a garden, so let’s talk about them.

Venus flytraps aren’t the only type of carnivorous plant out there, but they are the most popular, with collectors actually causing the species to become endangered in the wild some years back.  They’ve since then rebounded, and are currently sitting at the Vulnerable classification thanks to now being grown in green houses- so feel free to buy one of these crazy suckers.  In the wild they’re found in shitty nutrient environments, such as bogs, which might be why they’ve evolved to rely on eating insects.  Really though, it’s the flytrapping part that makes them special.giphy (1)

It’s also the part we don’t really understand.

What we do know is that the inside of the Venus flytrap’s “mouths” are red, attracting insects towards the sweet nectar found within.  That’s the trap part.  Once the bug enters the “mouth”, it triggers the trap after brushing past two hairs (check them out in the picture below).  The leaves then swing shut, creating an air tight container where the unsuspecting meal is digested… alive… over the next five to twelve days.  It’s pretty brutal!  The digestive juices the plant uses are similar to the ones found in  our own stomachs, and only digest the innards of the insect, leaving its dry exoskeleton to blow away in the breeze after the leaves open up again.  It’s pretty much using acid to tear the flesh and guts off of an insect’s skeleton- like some crazy bond villain with a funny name.

What we don’t know, is how this trap closes.  We know what the trigger is, but without a central nervous system we don’t really know how these reflexes work.  On top of that, it’s possible that the plant is able to think and remember.  Hold on one second though, before you click away, we’ve talked about the possibility of plant thought before, and it seems like Venus flytraps aren’t an exception to notion of Venus_Fly_trapthoughtful plants.  You see, the trap only reacts when two triggers are touched, but there’s only a finite amount of time for this.  So somehow, it has a concept of time, and resets its trigger count back to zero if only one is touched after a set period of time.  So, somehow it is able to grasp the concept of time.  Like I said, we don’t understand the trigger mechanism of these plants, so this could be possible!

And finally, some information I want to tell you, but can’t think of a good segue to get there- their name.  You might be wondering why Venus is a part of this plant’s name, and it turns out it’s kind of sexist.  Botanist apparently played it pretty fast and loose in the 17th and 18th centuries when it was discovered, as they decided the plant was like a temptress in how it lures insects to their doom.  Oh, and they thought the leaves looked like a vagina.  So, they decided to name it after the Roman goddess of love and lust: Venus.  Yep, I bet you’ll never look at a Venus flytrap the same ever again.  You’re welcome for that!

But those are Venus flytraps in a nutshell.  Want to know more?  Then check out these links below:

http://botany.org/bsa/misc/carn.html

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/botany/venus-flytrap.htm

http://www.arkive.org/venus-flytrap/dionaea-muscipula/

http://botany.org/Carnivorous_Plants/