Jeanne and her husband are very excited about the opportunity to share their interest in carnivorous plants with MOSI visitors. They not only sponsor the recently installed Savage Garden exhibit in MOSI’s Butterfly Garden, they even donated one of the largest and most striking plants in the exhibit. So what is so interesting about carnivorous plants? Lots of things!
Carnivorous plants got their name because they are capable of trapping and digesting small animals — mostly insects. If you consider insects to be meat, then, yes, they are meat-eating plants. If, like most people, you think of a juicy steak when someone mentions being a meat-eater, then carnivorous plants are going to score very, very low on the meat-eating scale for you. But don’t score them too low because some carnivorous plants can actually trap and digest small “meaty” animals.
Why are these plants carnivorous? Let’s start with the environment that carnivorous plants call home. Carnivorous plants live in environments that other plants are unable to thrive in because the soil lacks nutrients or is too wet. Carnivorous plants have adapted to the poor soil and water by taking their nutrients from the insects and other small animals they trap instead of from the soil. The carnivorous plants in the Savage Garden all grow in bogs or even water.
Carnivorous plants use enzymes to digest their trapped food. Digestive enzymes are natural proteins that break food down into nutrients that can then be absorbed by the plant. Other
Plants, the ones we are all more familiar with, absorb their nutrients from the soil through their roots and use the sun’s energy to digest these nutrients. Carnivorous plants do share with their other plant cousins a love of sunlight, but unlike other, more familiar plants, the roots of carnivorous plants primarily anchor the plants in place rather than being part of their nutrition cycle.
Jeanne has lots more information to share with you about carnivorous plants and the Savage Garden exhibit at MOSI in future blogs. In the meantime, make plans to visit the exhibit with your family and friends after it opens and as you learn more about these fascinating plants.