No, this isn’t a tribute to the Little Shop of Horrors; it’s an overview of 5 total anomalies of nature – plant species that actually eat animals. Don’t worry, none of these atypically aggressive flowers are powerful enough to consume a human. Geckos, other small insects, and lizards, on the other hand, should tread carefully.
1. Tropical Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes)
This disturbing plant grows in South East Asia, Australia, India, and Madagascar; it’s named after the long tubular vase-like cups that make up its flowers and are also sometimes referred to as “monkey cups”, as monkeys have been known to drink water from them. It’s part of the carnivorous plant genus, Nepenthes. Although the plant mostly captures passing insects like beetles, ants, butterflies, and moths, it will happily swallow larger game such as geckos, small frogs, and mice if they dare get too close to its trap. Once swallowed, it can take up to 2 months to complete the digestive process.
2. Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia)
The cobra lily is also known as the “California pitcher plant” and is a carnivorous species, although it belongs to a different genus as the tropical pitcher plant. As its alternate name suggests, it’s native to Northern California as well as the Oregon coast. The cobra lily feeds on foraging insects and bugs, using secretions and angled hairs to force its prey into its grasp. Once inside, the insect will tire itself trying to escape as the flower contains numerous “false exits” through translucent membranes, while the real exit hole is stealthily hidden by the plant curling it underneath itself.
3. Trigger Plants (Stylidium)
Specialists still aren’t exactly sure if trigger plants are actually carnivorous, or if their entrapment of insects is merely a defense mechanism. Either way, coming across one of these complex plants doesn’t end well for most bugs. The tip of the plant produces a sugary substance meant to draw in insects so that they can be suffocated. The purpose of this ability is thought to be to keep the lower and more sensitive parts of the plant safe, however, because it also produces digestive enzymes found in other species of carnivorous plants, the true nature of its murderous ways is still up for debate.
4. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea)
Probably the most commercially dramatized carnivorous plant around, the Venus flytrap captures its prey by use of a “snap trap”, which are basically two toothed portions that slam shut within a tenth of a second to capture insects, flies, and sometimes larger game, like spiders. They don’t grow larger than a maximum of 5 inches across, so “bigger” prey (like mice and small reptiles) are safe around them. Once captured, in line with other carnivorous species, the Venus flytrap will use special digestive enzymes to decompose the prey and take in nutrients.
5. Bladderworts (Utricularia)
Bladderworts are found in marshy areas, lakes, and streams around the world and are characterized by rows of tiny watery sacs that line their elongated spines. They use these “containers” to suck in passing prey, which subsists mainly of insect larvae, water fleas, and aquatic worms. Once inside, they digest the captured bug within milliseconds. Bladderworts are widespread, and are considered an invasive species.
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