Carnivorous plants are among the most exotic plants in the world, and those in the Indonesian rain forests are certainly no exception.
People traditionally think of plants as making their own food from a combination of sunlight and nutrients via photosynthesis, but these carnivorous plants have different methods--and these methods make the rain forest quite dangerous for the smallest of its inhabitants.
The bladderwort is named for its unique method of capturing its prey. The plant, which lives unanchored in open waters such as bogs and marshes, has a number of bladders that are usually uninflated. Each bladder is covered with tiny hairs that sense the movement of passing insects. When these hairs are triggered the bladder inflates, sucking in water and whatever hapless insect is passing by. A flap closes behind the insect, trapping it.
The bladderwort is one of the most widespread of all carnivorous plants, with more than 200 species. Because it has no need for roots, it can live in extremely nutrient-poor areas. However, removing the bladderwort from its native environment greatly decreases its size and growth.
In spite of their odd appearance, these plants reproduce in the same way as many other flowers. They have bright yellow flowers that grow above the surface of the water, which rely on attracting pollinators to reproduce.
The sundew relies on long, sticky tendrils to catch its prey. Unlike other carnivorous plants that rely on quick reflexes to catch and trap their prey, the sundew takes its time. When an insect lands on the hairs, it gets caught in the sticky substance the hairs excrete. Slowly, the leaf folds itself up around the insect and digests it. The enzymes can take more than four days to digest a single insect.
The sundew can survive in many nutrient-poor conditions, as it gains much of its nutrition from the insects that it captures. It frequently grows in sandy soils or in bogs, and is common in almost all tropical areas in the world.
Tropical Pitcher Plant
There are more than 90 different species of the tropical pitcher plant, but they all operate in mostly the same way.
The trap of the plant is what gives it its name. Pitcher plants rely on cup-shaped pitchers partially full of water and digestive juices to capture their prey. The pitchers are often brightly colored to attract insects to the rim; the pitchers also give off an odor of sweet nectar.
Pitcher plants are found across most continents, but the tropical ones found in Indonesia and neighboring countries are unique in that they grow not on the ground, but off of vines. As the pitchers droop once they begin to mature, the tropical plant supports itself by winding its vines around another plant.
The largest tropical pitcher plant lives in Indonesia. Called the Rajah, or King of the Pitcher Plants, it is large enough to trap and digest prey as big as mice.