INGENIOUS EVOLUTION - PITCHER PLANTS

  
Growing in nutrient poor habitats, such as bogs, pitcher plants (as well as other carnivorous plants) have evolved brilliantly to supplement their diets with insect prey.

The leaves of Pitcher Plants and other carnivorous plants have two important roles… photosynthesis and digestion!  Bogs are especially low in nitrogen.  By capturing and digesting insects, carnivorous plants metabolize the nitrogen they need (as well as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and iron).

How do they do it?  Insects are drawn to the sweet smelling nectar inside the hood of the pitcher plant and the light shining through the beautiful latticework the leaves. Upon arrival, the slippery surface of the pitcher throws the unsuspecting victims into it the deep hollow pitcher.  Needlelike, downward-pointing hairs line the interior, making retreat impossible, down, down, down to the plant's acidic digestive juices.

If you’re not already impressed by the evolutionary genius of the pitcher plant, have a look at the oddly beautiful flower that the plant sends up (see above).  In order to avoid capturing and consuming prospective insect pollinators, pitcher plants keep their flowers high above the plant via long stalks.

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All images and content copyright Jeffrey Schneider of JAMES Modern Terrariums 2009.