Sunday, November 22, 2009

PLANTS WITH AN ATTITUDE

Canandaigua Botanical Society presentation
November 14, 2009

Dr. Bruce Gilman has been an Ontario County Botanist for the past 33 years. To many of the students at FLCC he is known as “THE PLANT MAN”.

The Plant Man speculated what might be considered plants with attitudes. Although prickly plants (honey locust), plants that harm us (poison ivy), and plants with an ego (ironwood/muscle wood) may indeed be plants with attitudes…Dr. Gilman focused his talk on carnivorous predatory plants.

The Plant Man (aka Dr. Gilman) discussed the classification, evolution, ecology, and feeding of Butterwort, Bladderwort, Sundew, Venus Fly Trap, and Pitcher Plant in our area of the world.

The Butterwort is rare and protected in NY State. It grows on rocky shores and ledges and can be found at Lethchworth State Park. The Butterwort, a perennial, has stalk leaves using a sticky flypaper like trap to collect insects and pollen grains.

Bladderwort is a free floating submersed plant with leaves underwater and a snapdragon like yellow flower in autumn. The submersed leaves have tiny bladders that suction up nutrients (water fleas) which stimulate hairs on the bladder. The closing of the trap doors can be heard as a crackling noise.

The Venus Fly Trap can be found along the coastal Carolinas. This plant uses a snap trap where two leaf jaws snap close creating a cage for the insect that stimulate two or more hairs on the outer edges of the leaves. The insect is then slowly digested by enzymes and absorbed by the leaf. A Venus Fly Trap leaf generally takes on three victims before it turns black and dies.

There are about 152 species of Sundew that can be found in temperate tropical bogs. The Sundew has glandular hairs which glisten like dew in the morning sun. It has stalked glands on the hairs coming off of the leaf. The digestive juices of the Sundew plant increase in production once its prey has been captured.

The Pitcher Plant is perhaps the most aggressive carnivorous plant using the scent of decaying meat and the color of blood red deep purple flowers to attract its prey. This plant has a hollow leaf with waxy surface and a pool of rain water used to drown its prey. The female Pitcher plant has an inverted umbrella where insects breed.

The Plant Man concluded the presentation with a short clip from the 1960’s movie, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS where we giggled at the enormous plant gobbling up its prey of a floral shop robber.

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