Little Shop of Horrors

Which of the following statements is true:

a) Some animals eat plants

b) Some plants eat animals

c) Both statements are false

d) Both statements are true

If you answered letter d..... Congratulations! Yes, some plants eat animals. They are known as carnivorous plants.

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The carnivorous plants shown devouring people in the 1980's movie Little Shop of Horrors are, of course, fictional characters. Real life carnivorous plants don't attack or pounce on their prey, but rather wait passively for the prey to fall in their trap.

Nepenthes attenboroughii. Discovered in the Philippines by a team led by Stewart McPherson, Alastair Robinson and Volker Heinrich. PHOTO: STEWART MCPHERSON

Nepenthes attenboroughii. Discovered in the Philippines by a team led by Stewart McPherson, Alastair Robinson and Volker Heinrich. PHOTO: STEWART MCPHERSON

Nepenthes or pitcher plant, is an example of a carnivorous plant that is native to the Philippines. We have a number of species here including the one that has evolved the largest pitcher - Nepenthes attenboroughii. It was reported to have eaten a rat. So you can just imagine the size of the pitcher.

The pitcher is actually a modified leaf. It mimics the odor of a nectar to attract insects and small animals like mice and frogs. The inner wall of the pitcher is slippery so insects and small animals slide to the bottom of the pitcher in case they decide to drop by for a visit. The prey then drowns in the pool of water inside the pitcher. The plant produces an enzyme capable of breaking down the flesh of the dead prey and digest the nutrients.

This method of killing is an aggravating circumstance under our penal code. It's called treachery. 

This is my Nepenthes alata. The pitcher is about three inches long. It had captured a fly two weeks ago. When I took a peek inside the pitcher this morning....voila....the fly had disappeared. I'm thinking of planting a million pitcher plants in a noble attempt to control fly population.

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I wonder if I can feed it with Big Mac.