Quick plants

Plant & zo

The science of plants and more

Quick plants

One, two, gotcha, that one is not going anywhere. Who wants to catch flies needs to be super quick, like Venus flytrap. A real hunter, this plant.

Where most plants are preyed by hungry insects, is this meat-eater eating them. This makes Venus flytrap already an exception within plants. Another difference, most plants are moving super slow, so slow that you can not see it. You can only see it when you film a plant for a day, and play this movie at an increased speed. But not Venus flytrap, she reacts super vast, within 100 milliseconds.

Realtime recording of a Venus flytrap reaction to a fly. This film was recorded by Procko et al., 2021 eLife ;10:e64250

Venus is luring flies to its trap with a for the fly attractive smell. The trap is made off two so called trap-leaves, which are surrounded by thorns, like a mouth with sharp teeth. As soon as a fly lands on these trap-leaves, the trap springs. The thorns reach into each other and the fly can not escape. Venus has the time to digest the fly. How the plant manages to react so quickly is a question that researches try to answer for a long time. Already in 1875 Charles Darwin, they guy of the evolution theory, was already thinking about this.

Each trap-leaf has three or four touch sensitive trigger hairs, like whiskers, to enable Venus to react that quickly. When one of these trigger hairs bends, an electric current, a signal, goes to the point where the trap-leaves connect. A single signal can be caused by a falling twig, nothing to react to. But are two signals arriving quickly in a row, then the trap springs.

But how can bending of a trigger hair result in a signal? Now we have the answer. A trigger hair consists of three parts. A foot, which connects the trigger hair with the trap-leaf. A long unbending lever. And a bending part that connects the lever with the foot. American researchers found in the cells of this bending part a channel, that they called Flycatcher. A channel is like a door between cells. Normally this door is closed. But when a trigger hair bends and the cell stretches, Flycatcher opens and allows a current to pass.

Other plants have channels that look like Flycatcher. We do not know why they do not react to touch that quickly. Maybe something to find out. In the meantime, Venus will catch another fly. One, two, gotcha.


Carl Procko, Swetha Murthy, William T Keenan, Seyed Ali Reza Mousavi, Tsegaye Dabi, Adam Coombs, Erik Procko, Lisa Baird, Ardem Patapoutian and Joanne Chory (2021) Stretch-activated ion channels identified in the touch-sensitive structures of carnivorous Droseraceae plants. eLife 10:e64250

Published by Femke de Jong

A plant scientist who wants to let people know more about the wonders of plant science. Follow me at @plantandzo

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