Kuiper smiles with mouth wide open and showing all his teeth. He is wearing a collar with dinosaurs on it.

Oh my Darling, oh my Darlingtonia

Kuiper compares notes with carnivorous plants at Darlingtonia State Natural Site.

Greetings from Darlingtonia State Natural Site, on the southern Oregon Coast. This state park exists to protect a carnivorous plant called Darlingtonia californica, also known as the cobra lily ? or pitcher plant. Although not endangered, the species only has a very small range in southern Oregon and northern California. The lighting was pretty challenging on the day we went ?, but we still managed to capture some pitcher pictures for science. ?‍? Yeah, science!

Cobra plants aren’t just fearsome predators. They are also cunning. ? They lure unsuspecting, innocent bugs into their hoods with the promise of sweet-smelling nectar. Without the assistance of a navigation app ?, the bugs are unable to find their way back out. The hoods are filled with a bunch of teeny tiny transparent “windows” which are confusing as heck to bugs.

What’s even worse for intrepid insect explorers is that the inside is covered in a slippery, waxy coating and pointy, downward facing hairs. Bugs can’t simply land and try to retrace their steps ?; they are doomed to fall into the bottom of the plant and drown. Then symbiotic bacteria and digestive enzymes work together to break them down. Om nom nom.

So what’s the strategy here? Why would a plant evolve to eat bugs?? ? Seems like a lot of work, right? Why can’t they just eat sunlight and water like decent, upstanding floral citizens? It turns out that they do! Carnivorous plants photosynthesize just like any other green plant ?, with chlorophyll, of which nitrogen is a key component. Carnivorous plants have adapted to live in places with really terrible soil. Instead of getting the nitrogen they need from dirt, they get it from bugs. (They can’t just yank nitrogen out of the air because N2 is super hard to break up and use.)

Another similarity to other plants is that Darlingtonia produces FLOWERS ? and we came at just the right time to see them!!! Swipe to the fourth picture to take a peek. Oddly enough, we’re still not exactly sure what pollinates them! ?

Final thought: Did you know that we have carnivorous plants in all 50 states?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BkEoluCgQTA/

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