Friday, October 8, 2010

Week of the Triffids: Pitcher Plants.

Tomorrow will be a plant that is awesome without eating bugs, I swear. For now, pitchers are pretty cool plants in and of themselves.

I would call these "champagne glass plants," but your name's good, too.

Although certainly not as active as sundews or flytraps, pitcher plants are still awesome. They can be found on almost every continent with a corresponding genus: Old World pitchers are Nepenthes, New World pitchers (like the ones above) are Sarraceniaceae and one bizarre pitcher from Australia, the Cephalotus, is its own genus.

Oh, Australia, you so cra-zy.

Pitcher plants, as their collective name implies, resemble the pitchers that humans use to pour lemonade during the summer heat or other such water vessels. These pitchers are filled with something far less delicious: Water and digestive fluids.

Unsuspecting insects are lured into the pitcher plant's gullet using a number of tricks. Sometimes, the pitcher is colored a vibrant red, which tells flower-loving insects (but not ants) that they should land. Other pitchers bait their traps with delicious nectar. Some just take advantage of an obvious hiding place, only to slide down into the watery depths. It's kinda like going to the only Mickey D's on a highway when you really need a rest stop, and you don't know (or care) that it's run by an axe-murderer.

Fast-food can be hell.

Not all pitchers feed on bugs. Some have evolved into vegetarians (which is...almost cannibalism, except that they're feeding on fallen leaves etc.). Others have gone beyond insects and are big enough to trap and digest birds and rats. A few millennia down the road, who knows what they might try to eat...

The obvious conclusion.

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