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The bog-dwelling western false asphodel, Triantha occidentalis, was first described in the scientific literature in 1879. But until now, no one realized this sweet-looking plant used its sticky stem to catch and digest insects, according to researchers who note in their study published Monday it's the first new carnivorous plant to be discovered in about 20 years.
We had no idea it was carnivorous," says Sean Graham, a botanist with the University of British Columbia. "This was not found in some exotic tropical location, but really right on our doorstep in Vancouver. You could literally walk out from Vancouver to this field site."
Fewer than 1,000 plant species are carnivorous, and these plants tend to live in places with abundant sun and water but nutrient-poor soil.
To see if the plants could actually take in nutrients from insects, researcher Qianshi Lin, now at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, fed fruit flies nitrogen-15 isotopes, so that this nitrogen could be used as a tracker. He then stuck these flies to stems of this plant.
Later, an analysis showed that nitrogen from the dead insects was indeed getting into the plants. In fact, Triantha was getting more than half of its nitrogen from prey. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published online Monday, Lin and his colleagues say that this is comparable to what's seen in other carnivorous plants.
What's more, the researchers showed that the sticky hairs on the flower stalk produce a digestive enzyme that's known to be used by many carnivorous plants.
originally posted by: igloo
Neat! Makes me wonder if other plant species with sticky parts are quietly eating bugs too, without all the fancy snapping stuff like venus flytraps.