Insectivorous Plants

Lewis J. Feldman

University of California, Berkeley

The term "insectivorous" was used by Charles Darwin to characterize a group of plants that seemed to trap and feed on insects. Since Darwin's time, observations have revealed that these plants capture and interact with a greater variety of animals, which can include spiders, lizards, sow bugs, tadpoles, and frogs, and judging from some reports, even mammals such as rats and rabbits. Hence, because of this varied diet, many workers now prefer to describe such plants as carnivorous, rather than solely insectivorous. Yet the interactions between carnivorous plants and animals go beyond the presence of certain creatures as items on a plant's menu. While it is true that the most spectacular and usually the most obvious activities of carnivorous plants seem to be in the often elaborate mechanisms for capture and digestion of prey, many other (often more subtle) associations, occur between these plants and animals. Researchers are just at the beginnings of learning about these other fascinating interactions.

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