Pardon me for being rude, it was not me it was my food

This week, we look more into thechemistry behind the Venus Fly Trap, and explore how it uses its methods to obtain key nutrients from insects that it catches.
Previously, I wrote that due to the acidity of its soil, the Venus Fly Trap is forced to become carnivorous in order to adapt to its environment. Using its mouths to trap wandering prey as they unknowingly stroll into their impending doom.

This head is beginning to open after a week of digesting a spider.

Slowly, the insect is digested for all its useful nutrients so that to plant may continue to thrive and grow. Although plants don’t have tendons that can grab, chew and swallow their food. This raises a question, how does it get food to its stomach?
Well, the heads are infact both mouth and stomach in one. In truth, we aren’t totally sure how the process all works but the theory goes that cells may be compressed inside the mouth, this tension may actually hold the mouth open and its the insects weight and movement that break this tension and cause it to snap shut. Another hypothesis, mechanical movement in the trigger hairs changes water pressure within the cells, where the cells are expanded by water pressure and the trap closes as the cell tissue relaxes.

So how does the plant break its food down?

Just like our stomachs, the Venus Fly Trap uses acidic digestive fluids that dissolve soft tissues and cell membranes of the insect. Using enzymes it will digest DNA, amino acids and other cellular molecules into smell edible pieces that can be used for energy, growth and development. All that remains afterwards is an eerie exoskeleton of the insect!

Closer look at the recently digested meal.

Advertisements
Standard

Drosera Capensis Alba

Last time I wrote that I would be bringing in a new addition, and here we are…

Drosera Capensis Alba

This beautiful contraption uses a sticky dew to catch its prey – as you see from above it is quite popular amongst the local flies.

It differs from other carnivorous plants in this way so it can take advantage of the dew that sweeps across our gardens each morning, however, I read online that leaving in direct sunlight too long can essentially “dry out” the plant. This is something I’ll have to monitor over the next few days so any advice you may have could prove vital.

It joins both Hector (Venus Fly Trap) and Henrietta (Nepenthes) on my balcony outside, although I may move the Drosera Capensis to another pot to avoid any weight or “overcrowding” issues.

Unlike other Drosera Capensis, the Alba variety is given this name because it keeps its lush green colour. As a result, I feel Jessica can be the only befitting name (there was also Jordi but you may not be familiar with him) for this carnivore.

As an insect becomes trapped in this sticky fluid, the plant will slowly begin to curl and close in on the prey. Above you can see this fly has just landed – in fact, if I could upload a video I would because it’s still alive and moving!

You can see the curvature at the top of the image (which I can just about count 4 flies) as this begins to close. None of the arms are at a fully curved stage so I’ll watch closely and ensure I get greater images for the next blog.

In terms of watering, treat it like other carnivores in the sense of giving it distilled water. I read that eventually Drosera Capensis produces flowers so it will not require too much watering – just keep the soil damp and you should be ok. Budding botanists online have advised that these are some of the easiest carnivores to look after!

Standard

What Can Plants Do For You?

We’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks, in terms of looking after carnivorous plants anyway, and it’s time to look back and reflect on what this has done for me and why I would encourage all of us to look after all kinds of plant life.

I personally feel that there are 3 key skills which a botanist develops over time and they are:

  • Patience
  • Discipline
  • Humility

Buddhists popularly keep the Bonsai tree, as this helps them on the spiritual path to a higher understanding of our existence – if you believe that sort of thing. They practiced the art of “penjing” or “pun-sai” which means to create a small landscape in a container or pot and in turn, relates to the Chinese philosophical tradition of Taoism.

Google Search: Image of Buddhist and Taoist New Year Display

Taoism is thinking and living in a natural way and less towards the thinking of modern living. Being one with nature, understanding the flow of life and going with the flow are key parts of what Taoism teaches. Even if Taoism and spiritualism isn’t your thing, you can still better shape your own mind as you get to know the world around you.

Google Search: Bonsai Tree

Meeting this with a child like enthusiasm will make your experience invaluable and enjoyable – even if your like me and struggle in the beginning, it will take time but you’ll get there. I will adapt the new found skills I am developing to my own life.

At first it may not sound very useful, or I may not even spot when it is useful but someone who is well humbled and patient will better handle a disruptive colleague at work, or the dissertation paper you are writing will be easier to find its flow. I myself have not got a particular interest in studying Taoism in depth (though now I’ve mentioned it..), however I’m sure harnessing and practicing these skills over time will aid me in many factors throughout life.

Whether it be carnivorous plants, a bonsai, fruits and vegetables or even plain old daffodils, you can find an abundance of pleasure from cultivating the life that has given so much to us throughout the history of our existence and with the increasing worries of human interference on nature – it is vitally important that we all do our bit to give back to our home.

Standard