Borneo's Carnivorous Plants

July 29, 2011
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Borneo's forests have varieties of flora and fauna that will stun anyone looking for a true nature travel adventure. In the Mount Kinabalu National Park alone there are nine species of carnivorous pitcher plants.

Among the most famous of these is the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia, which blooms very rarely and then only for a few days. Unlike most of its floral friends, the rafflesia emits a foul smell, reminiscent of rotting meat. The stench attracts flies and insects, which the plant then feasts on.

Carnivorous plants are nothing new. In fact, Charles Darwin encountered his first carnivorous plant in 1860, and soon after recorded his experiments and observations of the species in his 1875 book, Insectivorous Plants, National Geographic reports.

While carnivorous pitcher plants most commonly feast on insects, they occasionally capture a small animal in their flute-like leaves. Once the leaf closes on its prey, it shuts into a cell where glands secrete enzymes, much like a stomach, that are powerful enough to break through the exoskeleton of insects and absorb the nutrients inside its body.

Biologists who study cells and DNA have found that the plant's split-second reactions to prey that touches it are not related to a nerve system of muscles. The Venus flytrap, for instance, functions off of the electrical charge it gets when anything brushes a hair on its leaf. The charge builds up, and when an insect brushes another hair, which it is likely to do, the charge is strong enough to snap the leaf shut.

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