Friday, August 10, 2007
See carnivore plants on the Oregon coast
A few miles north of Florence, Oregon along U.S. 101, not far from the shores of the Pacific, a daily carnage of death takes place. But you cannot hear the screams.
The victims are insects. The predators are innocent-looking plants called Darlingtonia, which sounds a whole lot like darling. But hah! For insects that fall in love with these lush green plants, the word darling does not apply. For these plants -- unlike most plants that crave simply soil, water and if they are lucky an occasional shot of Miracle Grow -- are carnivores!
An unsuspecting victim lands or crawls onto a plant's leaf, lured by the sweet nectar on its colorful petal-like appendages, and its welcoming entryway. Once inside, alas, there is no return. The confused creature tries to escape but becomes terribly confused (not hard to do when your brain is smaller than a pinhead) by the many transparent areas of a leaf that appear to be exits. But no, they are not! Eventually, the insect becomes trapped in the plant’s lower tube by sharp downward pointing hairs. The victim then plummets into a pool of liquid at the base of the leaf, where it is digested and absorbed through the plant's thin walls.
If you can stomach being in the proximity of such a life-and-death scene, then point your RV or car to the heavily wooded Darlingtonia Wayside off U.S. 101 where there's a big parking lot, and walk 100 feet to the plants. Afterward, if you can muster an appetite, there are picnic tables where you can dine and perhaps say a few kind words in memory of the victims just yards away.
Admission for humans is free, but not so for insects.