Most carnivorous plants are pretty upfront about their blood-thirsty intentions: they have large, bizarre looking heads that warn all but the bravest (and stupidest) animals that something fishy is going on. But not Philcoxia minensis.
Scientists in Brazil recently discovered that while this plant shows nothing but delicate purple flowers above the ground, it’s a far more violent scene below the soil.
Researchers believe that Philcoxia minensis uses tiny subterranean leaves to absorb some light through the white soil of the Cerrado, a tropical savannah region in Brazil.
According to the study, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), these pinhead-sized leaves also secrete a sticky gum that traps the almost microscopic roundworms wriggling through the sand nearby and slowly digests them.
Wonder how they can be sure? Jeremy Hance of Mongabay has the details.
“In order to prove that the plant was actually ingesting the roundworms, scientists brought Philcoxia minensis into the lab and fed them roundworms containing Nitrogen-15, a stable isotope. After leaving the roundworms to their fate for two days, the researchers sampled the flower’s leaves and had them tested for Nitrogen-15. The test came back positive, proving that the flower had indeed ingested the worms.”
Researchers say that the findings illustrate “how much can still be discovered about the origin, distribution, and frequency of the carnivorous syndrome in angiosperms and, more generally, about the diversity of nutrient-acquisition mechanisms that have evolved in plants growing in severely nutrient-impoverished environments such as the Brazilian Cerrado, one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.”
Image Credit: Flickr – PNAS