While you were chomping on Easter bilbies and eggs for a weekend, there were hundreds of plant species across the country celebrating with hearty meals of their own. They might not be able to take down something the size of a human (thank god, we don’t need more things that can kill us here), but the Lovecraftian horrors trap and slowly drown insects to get the nutrients they need.
These are Australia’s murderous plants.
Over the weekend, Ann Jones at ABC Science unleashed this wonderful inside look at the carnivorous plants of Australia that terrified famed biologist Charles Darwin. Presenting the plants as having a thirst for blood, Jones described the ‘hanging swamps of the Blue Mountains’ – a forest of Drosera binata – and the gruesome way that they get their nutrients.
The Drosera are sometimes known as ‘sundews’ because they have tentacle-like leaves with small droplets at their apex. Those droplets are able to stick to passing insects and enclose around them. The insect struggles against the sundew, but that only causes the plants glue to tighten around it further.
They can be incredibly fast – too fast for the human eye to register – when catching prey but it’s the digestive process that is really gruesome (if you’re a bug).
The video below, from Carnivorous Corner on Youtube, shows a species of Drosera capturing a hoverfly. It stops short of showing the entire thing be digested, but you can clearly see the way that its tiny stalks close around the little beast how it prevents it from getting away.
It’s fascinating but also just plain ~weird~. It’s kind of hard to watch, in a way.
Poor, little insect.
Once the bug is within Drosera’s grasp, enzymes are secreted by the plant and onto the crawly.
You’re probably familiar with plants like the Venus Fly trap and the pitcher plants that hang in the forests of Asia, waiting for unsuspecting insects to drop in, unable to get out. Unlike those plants, where the digestive process is contained within the planet, the Drosera aren’t shy. They don’t hide this process. The insect is ‘liquefied within its own exoskeleton’.
Man, nature is lit