Plants that feed on insects

The plant kingdom is not just as a benign world, where life is able to thrive without having to resort to the base instincts found in many animals, such as killing for survival.

There is an interesting side to it and that is the realm of insectivorous or carnivorous plants.

At a small corner of the Biodiversity Park on the RCD Hospital premises, a tiny bunch of these insectivorous plants are waiting to entrap insects that fly past them. This small collection of endangered insectivorous plants has been introduced for the first time in the park. Currently kept under observation in a separate enclosure, the four species of carnivorous plants that were procured from Chandigarh are Pinguicula or butterworts, Drosera or sundews, Dionaea or Venus fly trap and Sarracenia or trumpet pitchers.

Bizarre as it may sound, the plants catch prey like flies, grasshoppers, insects and sometimes even small bats to satisfy their nutrition needs.

“The plants need special care and do not grow in normal soil. For these to flourish, it is very essential to use salt-free distilled water. At present, we are keeping a close watch on the growth of these plants and it is not kept open for public display,” founder of the Dolphin Nature Conservation Society (DNCS) M. Rama Murthy told The Hindu . For the species to survive, 60-70 per cent humidity is required. Hence the city conditions are ideal for its survival. Incidentally, the carnivorous plants remain dormant in the winter months only to get back into action once the sun gets harsher. The plants have very peculiar characteristics. “For instance, the Venus fly trap moves fast to enclose an insect, make a chemical brew with enzymes that dissolves it and then absorb its remains,” explained Ram Murthy. Some insectivorous plants take one week to 10 days to digest the insects, depending on the size of the trapped prey.

While butterworts secrete mucus on their leaves and trap small insects, Sundews get their name from glistening, sticky, hairlike trichomes, which secrete enzymes that digest insects unlucky enough to get stuck. The trumpet pitcher’s leaves have evolved into a funnel or pitcher shape in order to trap insects. “There are about 600 carnivorous plants on this planet, many of which are endangered and endemic. Interestingly, the drosera species have been spotted in the wild in the Eastern Ghats,” Ram Murthy added.

And for those waiting to get a glimpse of these fascinating plant species, the park will open the carnivorous plant section to visitors by mid-summer.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 10:35:29 AM |

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