Tag Archives: plants

Carnivorous Plants Part 2: Snappers, Bladders and Lobster-pots

Snapping traps are most commonly associated with the famous Venus flytrap, which quickly closes in response to a trigger hair being touched, however there is another plant, the waterwheel plant, which closes its feeding parts when triggered by aquatic prey. After the trap is closed and the prey contained the plant releases its digestive fluid. Bladder trap plants pump ions out of their bladders, which causes water to also leave the bladders, creating a partial vacuum. Trigger hairs alert the plant to nearby prey and cause the bladders to open up. The flow created by the bladder opening pulls prey into the bladder where it is digested. Finally, lobster-pot trap plants use small hairs inside specialized leaves to easily allow prey in, but not out. Water flow in the trap may encourage prey to continue toward their doom,  a stomach-like region of the leaf where the prey is dissolved.

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Carnivorous Plants Part 1: Pitfalls and Flypaper

Many plants that grow in nutrient poor environments need to develop a method of obtaining the nutrients they need. Now, since plants can’t just get up and move to find their nutrients they have to get them where they are. This has lead to the development of five methods for catching prey, which usually consist of small arthropods, such as insects. Pitfall traps are the trapping mechanism of pitcher plants. Insects land on the smooth walls of the pitcher and fall into a small pool of digestive fluid where they are broken down into the nutrients the plant needs. Flypaper traps are based on a sticky digestive fluid, which holds insects in place while they are dissolved. Some sundews wrap around their prey to facilitate this process. Tomorrow will involve the snapping traps, bladder traps and lobster-pot traps.

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Herbs, Spices, Fruits, Vegetables, Staples and Nuts

Regarding plants in food there are six general groups, the herbs, the spices, the fruits, the vegetables, the staples and the nuts.

This fun fact is written in culinary terms. There are various ways culinary and botanical definitions of these terms vary, namely involving the Great Tomato Debate. The following definitions are used in culinary practice, not botany.

Spices, such as mustard, ginger, pepper and cinnamon, are the seeds, roots, fruits or barks of plants used to add extra flavor to a food substance, but not generally eaten on their own (see: the cinnamon challenge).

Herbs, such as basil, mint or rosemary, are the leafy parts of plants used, like spices, to add extra flavor to a food substance, but not generally eaten on their own.

Fruits, vegetables and staples are all generally eaten as a food product, rather than used to add flavor. A fruit is the sweet part of a plant generally containing the seed of the plant.

Nuts are any hard, oily seed contained within a shell, including peanuts, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts and chestnuts.

Vegetables, such as broccoli, onions and eggplant, are the parts of a plant, usually the leafy parts, roots and buds, that have a savory flavor.

Finally, staples are plant seeds, roots, and fruits (in the botanical sense) that comprise a large part of a culture’s diet and have a high caloric value and provide carbohydrates, proteins and/or fats. As of 2010 the three most used staple foods are corn, wheat and rice.

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