Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Creature (err...plant) Feature: Bromeliads (part 2)

So, suppose you're an insect. You're just flying along, looking for something fun to do like, I dunno, pollinate a flower. With your UV-sensing vision, you see something that looks unexpectedly attractive: A giant, shiny green cup of bromeliad leaves.

Oh, hey, a bromeliad! That must be one of those awesome plants with an entire ecosystem in its water cup! It even smells nice, just like the flower that you were intending to pollinate. You land on it, hoping for a free hotel with some free nectar involved...

...then you start to slip. No matter how much you try to get a footing, those glossy leaves make sure that you slide not into a simple pool of water, but into a pool of water, bacteria and maybe simple digestive enzymes. You have fallen prey to one of the few carnivorous bromeliads:  Brocchinia reducta.

Reducta? No sh*t; this plant has a very small range. It is found in the nutrient-poor soil in Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. That's it. Nowhere else. Like all carnivorous plants, it only grows in poor soil. There is one other species of definitely carnivorous bromeliad, but botanists don't know/care whether they are actually separate. They hybridize anyways.

Although relatively little research has been done on this plant, people debate over whether B. reducta is really carnivorous at all.  There have been some chemicals that might help with digesting insects in that sheltered pool, but it seems like the bacteria do more work than the plant. Still, the plant does benefit from it. It still counts as a carnivore in a roundabout way.

(I really need to do stones sometime, don't I?)

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