Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A carnivorous plant is a plant that derives some or most of its nutrients (but not energy) by trapping and consuming animals, especially insects. Carnivorous plants usually grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings.
Types of carnivorous plants:
- Pitcher plants
- Bladder and corkscrew traps
Charles Darwin wrote the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants in 1875.
Basic care and feeding
Although different species of carnivorous plants have very different requirements in terms of sunlight, humidity, soil moisture, etc., there are commonalities:
- Most carnivorous plants require rain water, or water that has been distilled, deionised by reverse osmosis, or acidified using sulfuric acid. Common tap or drinking water contains minerals (particularly calcium salts) that will quickly build up and kill the plant. This is because most carnivorous plants evolved in nutrient-poor, acidic soils and are consequently extreme calcifuges and are very sensitive to excessive soil-borne nutrients.
- Outdoor carnivorous plants generally catch more than enough insects to keep themselves properly fed. Insects may be fed to the plants by hand to supplement their diet. Carnivorous plants are generally unable to digest large non-insect food items; bits of hamburger, for example, will simply rot, and this may cause the trap, or even the whole plant, to die. A carnivorous plant that catches no insects at all will not die, but its growth will be impaired.
- Ironically, carnivorous plants are themselves susceptible to infestation by parasites such as aphids or mealybugs. Although small infestations can be removed by hand, larger infestations necessitate use of an insecticide. Isopropyl alcohol is effective as a topical insecticide. Diazinon is an excellent systemic insecticide that is tolerated by most carnivorous plants. Malathion and Acephate (Orthene ) have also been reported as tolerable by carnivorous plants.
Carnivorous plants in fiction
- A fanciful carnivorous plant with an insatiable appetite was the central theme of the comedic play, Little Shop of Horrors, made from a more serious 1960s movie of the same name.
- The triffids presented in John Wyndham's book The Day of the Triffids are plants which can uproot themselves, move, and can kill with a poisonous, whip-like tail. The book leaves open the question of whether the triffids are intelligent.
- The film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a campy movie about tomatoes that for some reason eat people. It is an intentional spoof on 50s monster movies.
- A large floral plant consumed a young woman in Madagascar in 1878, as witnessed by Dr Carl Liche , or so he reported in the September 26 1920 issue of The American Weekly. The woman was supposed to have been a member of the Mkodos , a little known but cruel tribe. The woman was pictured in an accompanying artwork. In 1925 the same paper offered another carnivorous plant story, of a tree species on Mindanao, in the Philippines.
- The Carnivorous Plant FAQ
- Carnivorous plant discussion forum
- Carnivorous Plant Database
- Carnivorous Plant Nurseries
- The Carnivorous Plant Society This site has a 24/7 live link with a forum.
- The Carnivorous Plant SocietyThis has information on plants and society with a link to a live 24/7 forum.
- International Carnivorous Plant Society, provides an extensive FAQ and links to the Carnivorous Plant Web Ring.
- Insectivorous Plants, by Charles Darwin
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