Tentacular spectacular

 Image: Satu Suro/Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Satu Suro/Wikimedia Commons.

All plants are fas­cin­at­ing, but some are more fas­cin­at­ing than oth­ers (to mis­quote George Orwell, English nov­el­ist and journ­al­ist). And what is more fas­cin­at­ing than a new insight into the world of the car­ni­vor­ous plant, such as that provided by Simon Poppinga and col­leagues? Despite appear­ances to the con­trary, not all of those bejew­elled, dew-dropped, sun-light-catching tentacles within the glisten­ing ‘disc of death’ that fre­quently typ­i­fies the insect-trapping ends of leaves in the car­ni­vor­ous sun­dews (Drosera spe­cies) are alike. Indeed, Poppinga et al. have shown that touch-sensitive ‘snap-tentacles’ of D. glandu­li­gera – near the edge of the tentacle tangle – cata­pult prey into the mass of sticky tentacles where they become adhered and trapped. Those lat­ter tentacles more slowly con­vey the hap­less vic­tim – as if on a con­veyor belt of death – towards its ulti­mate digest­ive fate. This com­bin­a­tion of ‘snap-and-trap’ adds yet another dimen­sion to the bizarre world of these fas­cin­at­ing zootrophs.

For more on this story, visit http://www.pr.uni-freiburg.de/pm/2012/pm.2012–09-27.253-en?set_language=en, where you’ll find a link to a video of the phenomenon.


Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.