Weird features of the plant kingdom – Part 3

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Carnivorous plants, shy plants, stinky plants... They're all represented in the plant kingdom. This time we discuss a parasite, plans that live in nutrient poor environments, and plats that go hiding when you touch them. Nature is full of surprises. Plants are usually overlooked, but today, they get a little TLC, and you will get a dose of inspiration.

Hi! My name is Tessa, I’m a Dutch artist, specializing in wildlife and creature designs. I love to share my passion for nature, art and fantasy, and do that by creating this archive and community, alongside my company Tez Art & Design.

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Weird features of the plant kingdom

The list of weird features in the plant kingdom goes on, here are the next three strange plants and plant features for your pleasure! Don’t worry about the order you read this, all the other articles on the same subject are at the bottom of this article!

The most stinky flower in the world is a parasite

The Rafflesia is part of the carrion flower ‘family’. We already came past the corpse flower and now it’s time to tackle this oddball!
This strange flower is the largest known solitary flower. There are several kinds that all somewhat look alike. The biggest of which is Rafflesia Arnoldii. The diameter of this flower can reach up to 1,5 meters.

Don’t be mistaken though. Rafflesia and the corpse flower are both carrion flowers and they both stink. Both of them also carry the records for the largest unbranched florescent flower, (corpse flower) and the largest single flower in weight which can reach up to 7 kg (Rafflesia). The corpse flower is a solitary plant with its own roots and leaves.
The rafflesia is a parasite. It doesn’t have any visible roots or leaves and instead lives like a fungus. It has thread-like tendrils that live in close contact with the tissues of its host plant. The flower is usually the only visible part Despite its fungus-like nature, its still a plant, which makes this one an oddball.

The flower lasts only for 5 to 7 days but takes up to 9 months to develop, during which most buds die. These plants are very endangered, and their short blooming time and they fact they are either males or females makes it hard for them to reproduce.

Carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plants are among the favorite of many people, They look unique, and some can actually move quickly, like the sundew and the Venus flytrap. You can expect to find these plants in wet areas that are very low in nutrition. This could be because the land they grow on mostly consists of sand, or because they live in an area where water wells up and runoff. Because of this runoff important nutrients are taken downstream.

To get their nutrients after all they specialized in such a way that they can catch insects in several creative ways.

The difference between sand and soil

Sand and soil are often used interchangeably. Yea, we know from our young days that a playground sandbox holds sand, but most people just think of sand as light-colored soil. This isn’t the case. Sand is nutrient-poor broken down stone or shells. It can be a component of soil, but it isn’t soil to begin with. Soil is a usually nutrient-rich mixture of sand, broken down compost (coming from animals and plants) a whole lot of minerals, and living organisms. Good soil can hold water very well without waterlogging or draining quickly. And it’s the basis of a healthy ecosystem.

But where there is a niche that hasn’t been concurred, plants will go and animals will follow. As is the case with carnivorous plants.

Sundew

Sundew is a green plant with red needle-like protrusions sticking out. On these protrusions, there is a sticky substance. As soon as an insect lands on the plant it will stick to it. All the plant has to do now is curl around the prey and digest it with the same substance it caught its prey in the first place.

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plants have a different approach. They attract insects with a sweet scent coming from the beaker. As soon as an insect lands on the rim of the beaker, it will lose all its grip and fall down into the pitcher which is filled with water. The inside of the pitcher is just as slippery, once an insect fell in, there is no way to come out. All the insect can do is wait until the watery digestive juices kill it.

Venus flytrap

Ahh, who doesn’t know the Venus flytrap! I’m sure you stuck your finger in at least one of them in your lifetime! They are the slightly creepy-looking toothed flowers that close upon touch. A fly flies in, touches the tiny hairs inside the leave, and after it did so 3 times the plant knows it’s time to take action. The leaves quickly close trapping the insect, and sometimes even a small frog inside which will die and be digested over the course of 5 to 10 days.

Butterwort

Butterwort is covered in two kinds of glands. Stalked glands that produce a sticky pearl to which any small enough insect will stick too, and sessile glands which will excrete digestive juices when prey is caught. This plant is mostly passive, but some species are able to slightly curl their leaves.

Bladderwort

This is an even stranger one than those before! The bladderwort lives in marshes and has the need to catch prey as well. The plants have bladders that can and will suction its prey inside once triggered with the help of negative pressure inside the bladder. It uses fine hairs on the outside to detect prey upon which the death trap is triggered. And right behind its prey, the trapdoor will close and then the prey is slowly digested.

Plants can be shy

The Mimosa is a very delicate plant that can grow fairly large. It’s a popular one as well because it’s one of the most interactive plants out there. It closes just like the venus flytrap upon touch. Each leave slowly folds up right up against its counterpart. This is a defense mechanism. The plant suddenly looks dead and is less interesting to its predators to eat.

This unique feature costs a lot of energy though. Not only because of the process itself. It also stops the plant from photosynthesizing, an essential process for any plant to live and grow. It’s unknown how this unique feature came to exist. It’s most likely a random mutation. This plant is very tasty to grazing animals, the most likely theory is that the closing of the leaves is just a random mutation. One plant mutated in such a way that it could close its leaves and had such a high success rate that it managed to survive for a long time and pass its genes effectively.

More reads on the subject

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