A report from an Australian tree that packed spider-like venom last year turned out to be a completely memorable one that you are not always safe in a tree. From the Venus flytraps to the melodramatic body flower, the world of botany is full of murky but interesting characters. Unfortunately, about a quarter of muscles thought to be at risk of extinction due to their highly specific niche.
Probably the most impressive of these indifferent trees are the pitcher plant, Nepenthes and Sarracenia whose slippery rims make it easy for curious animals to read in their jug-shaped bells. Inside, they immersed in a pool of liquid that may look majestic, but you do not want to spend too much time here. Tissue-dissolved, enzyme-rich baths arranged for fall victims who cannot get out, and they are broken down into easily digestible pulp for plant feeding.
Like many carnivorous plants, pots developed to accept this type of extensive prey in response to their nutrient-poor environment. Other plants have nutrients in the surrounding soil but more dry and forgiving water plants need to be innovative. Fortunately, liquefying, vertebrate or electronic synthesis can made effective for people who lack vital elements. With their alluring nectar and slippery nets, the prey is just a false move to get from the one-way train to the town of Smoothie.
The various menus of the pitcher caught the eye of Amanda Semenuk, a wildlife photographer and winner of the Science Unveiling Photo Contest from Golf University in Canada, whose Twitter bio described her as “curious about what #carnivorousplants have been eating lately.” We caught up with him to learn more about these nasty plants.
What first drew you to photographing pitcher plants?
I made my first trip to the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station in 2018 for a field ecology course and immediately drawn to the local ecology – many of the park’s plants and animals are not found back in the golf course. Led by Dr. Alex Smith, now an advisor to my MSc, he has shared his enthusiasm for the carnivorous plant of Algonquin, mainly Sunday and of course the North Picture plant. We took samples from these trees as a class to see which plants take the most pests. I fascinated by their extensive adaptations to capture prey, as well as their ability to live in fascinated, nutrient-poor areas. Every summer since then, my camera roll has filled with these brilliant carnivorous plants.
What have been the strangest things you have seen pitchers feeding on?
Like opening a kind of goodie bag to look for in the pitcher trees, you never know what you are going to look for inside. Of course, the most striking creature we have ever found is the juvenile spotted salamander that we now know captured by dozens every summer. In addition to these, I have seen dragonflies, bees and lots of insects and ants that prey on plants.
What does the inside of a pitcher plant look like?
It is easy to see the prey floating on top of the kale liquid, but when you look deeper into the kale plant, you are amazed at the types and amounts of the type of rotten prey you can find. Pitcher plants are rather unique because it actually relies on tiny germs in pitcher liquids to help plants “digest” their food. Using Turkey Beast, I have now researched the content of several hundred pages. I find mostly small wings and parts of the exoskeleton of insects, both of which are hard for plants to digest. Late-rotten salamanders smell horrible and rot in a few days and a few weeks. You have to admit, “Life is like a search for a callus tree, you never know what you want to do, you will find the next one,” adding a certain je ne sais quoi to that Forrest Gump scene.