I’m easily swept up in the excessive beauty of flowers but plants can also have a sinister and cunning side which I find even more fascinating. As Halloween is fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to focus on a few of my favorite flora that have honed disguise and deception into a fine art.
The Venus flytrap symbolizes deciet and danger, no kidding! Dionea muscipula, (Latin for Aphrodite’s mousetrap), developed an amazing ability to trap insects making up for the nutrient deprived soils in which it evolved. There are hairs on the inside of the hinged trap and they need to triggered twice within the space of 20 – 35 seconds, depending on temperature and acidity, in order to set off an electrical signal to the midrib or hinge of the trap which causes the water stored in the aquaporin cells of the convex inner “wings” to be flushed out and become concave, much like deflation of a balloon. As this happens, the claw like cilia contract as well catching dinner.
I had one of these as a child and wondered how it was possible for a plant to sense and feel and act – sheer magic! Now that I’m an adult and know it’s tricks I am even more awestruck!
The Venus flytrap is a bog dweller native to the swamps of the Carolinas (not a happy visitor to California, where drought tolerant plants thrive). I keep mine under a bell jar to retain the moisture it craves. People often take off the flower before it blooms to keep the plant strong but I couldn’t resist seeing what it would look like, and of course, it’s simple, lovely and deceiving!