Many of us are used to seeing leaves as nothing but sites of photosynthesis. But the truth is that plants have evolved beyond just being a chlorophyll generator. Plants now work as water reservoirs as seen in succulent leaves, defensive structures as seen with spines, or even support systems like with the tendrils. But apart from these, there is another plant that has become a master of evolution and that is the Venus flytrap. It can attract, sense, trap, liquefy, digest, and absorb bugs, all with just one leaf.
Venus Flytraps: Masters of Insect Hunting
This plant eats practically anything tiny enough to fit into its trap. Regular victims include ants, beets, spiders, weevils, and even frogs or other smaller amphibians and reptiles. Just about anything that is living and portable enough to enter its trap is ensnared.
The trap is cautiously set by the plant to lure the unsuspecting victim. The surface of the trap is bright red in appearance, and this is a color that attracts insects. The plant does not make use of brilliant colors alone to lure insects. It also utilizes the secretion of sweet nectar on the surfaces of the leaves. This sugary secretion makes the insects spend even longer time on the dangerous surface sucking the juice.
You can now see that there are a lot of amazing things about these plants, but you will even be more impressed to know that the Venus flytrap is a plant that can count. If you take time to closely observe what is in the trap, you are going to see tiny, elongated hairs located on each side of the trap directed inwards. These tiny hairs are overly sensitive, and they act to trigger the plant whenever a bug is unfortunate enough to walk on the surface.
Anytime there is a trigger, a tiny electrical charge is released and moves across the parts of the leaf. If an insect bumps on the trigger the first time, there is no activation but if it happens a second time, the trap closes immediately with the speed of lightning. This system allows the trap to avoid working on false triggers like raindrops and makes the plant to be more efficient in nabbing wriggling insects.
The trap can work this way by making use of swift changes in the turgor pressure inside the plant cells. Consider the plant cells to be balloons that become strong, firm, and rigid when they are fully inflated. When the balloon is partially inflated, the balloons become weak, saggy, and loose. This is one of the main reasons that plants must be watered regularly so that their structure remains intact. When plants are not watered, the cells lose water, and the plant droops.
Whenever the Venus flytrap senses that there is an insect in the vicinity, it immediately shifts the water presents in the cells in a way that cells located outside the trap become very rigid because of the increased turgidity while the cells located internally become loose because of the reduction in turgor pressure. This is what triggers an instant shutting of the leaves.
Once the plant hooks an unfortunate prey, the bug starts to wriggle in panic. It will continue to trigger more hairs and in no time, the plant will start working as a proper stomach. It covers the edges of the trap and forms an air-proof bag after which it starts to release digestive enzymes. These enzymes break down the chitin and protein that make up the insects. The liquefied bug is then easily absorbed by the plant.