Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pitcher Plant

Spruce Bog Trail, Algonquin Park, Ontario
11 August, 2005

Richard Dawkins has a wonderful description of how this plant works in "Climbing Mount Improbable." This is an insect eating plant. The plant produces a perfume attractive to insects, the sides of the cups are slippery, there are downward facing hairs that impede a climb to safety, and a little pool of water in which to drown. The plant can't chew them up so it gets a little help from some other life forms. Maggots and other creatures find a home in this liquid which is unusually rich in oxygen to provide a good environment for them. The maggots consume the drowned insects and turn them into a form that can be absorbed through the lining of the pitcher. Dawkins is at his best describing the science behind the diversity of biological life around us, he also shows considerable creativity in developing a scientific mythology of the origin of life.

4 comments:

T. Beth said...

I have never seen one of these plants in real life, although I have always wanted to see one. I checked with the US Plants National Database, and there are no pitcher plants found in Arizona, even in moist areas. :-(

Kingfisher said...

Another interesting fact I discovered about these plants is that there is one type of mosquito that passes its larval stage in the Pitcher Plant and nowhere else.

deadmike said...

Yep, the mosquito in question is Wyeomyia smithii. It overwinters as a larva in the icy confines of the pitcherplant. Keep an eye out for it in the spring. If you bring a white pan and a turkey baster along, you can examine the contents of these and also treeholes you encounter.

Kingfisher said...

Thanks for sharing your expertise deadmike and for the visit. I'll have to try the turkey baster idea this summer.