Saturday, 25 February 2012

Capable in conte crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is capable. And this exercise in try making some broad strokes for a change, Dee, is a Northern Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea).

Plants capable of digesting animals? Pretty bizarre. And fascinating, although I have to admit that it's not one of my primary fascinations so I don't know a lot about them off-hand. I did a little research, though, and have found out that these particular plants are known as carnivorous rather than insectivorous because they'll capture lots of things besides insects. Small frogs, for example, but the success rate for those is apparently on the low side.

I also found out that while the plant is capable of producing its own digestive enzymes -- especially when the pitcher is young -- it depends heavily on the miniature world of bacteria and insect larvae that lives in the pool of water that collects in the pitcher. Yep, there's actually a species of mosquito larva that helps the plant digest its prey. In biology that type of relationship is known as commensalism, where one member of the partnership (if you can call it that) directly benefits and the other is neither benefited nor harmed.

It's also a good example of see? Mosquitoes can be good for something. Actually, they're important for a lot of things. It's just hard to convince people of that when they're scratching and worrying about West Nile Virus.

Um, anyway. My own personal connection with this very capable plant is that I've been lucky enough to see them in the wild. It was back in university, during my field botany course. We were out on a sedge fen somewhere north of Edmonton (I've forgotten exactly where, now), and we found them there, hidden in amongst the other vegetation as they generally are. Incidentally, if you've ever wanted to do a stupid thing in the world of field botany, send a bunch of undergrads onto a sedge fen when they've already been out in the field for a few days and are exhausted and giddy. Sedge fens are like gigantic waterbeds. Try telling a group like that not to jump up and down.

Our TA spent that whole day with a look on his face like he was trying to figure out what to tell our supervising prof when one of us inevitably broke through and was never seen again...

Come to think of it, that particular group of interesting but weird people probably would have been capable of that.

1 comment:

Shiva said...

Cool one! :)

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