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Why a Voodoo Lily Is Not a Carnivorous Plant
I was visiting one of my doctor friends in her office and noticed a faint unusual smell. I finally had to ask her, “What’s that smell? Did you forget to take out your biohazard containers?”
“No,” she said. “The voodoo lily just bloomed outside the window.” Sure enough, right under her office window was a plant with an incredibly beautiful flower, but with the smell of a rotting dead mouse on a hot summer day.
I told her she had to dig up that plant. Although its flowers were stunning, its smell was putrid! That would give patients the wrong impression about her clinic! The next day, the Voodoo Lily was immediately dug up and thrown away.
The interesting thing about voodoo lily flowers is that they attract flies, not bees, for pollination. That is why they produce a smell similar to rotting meat. Their flowers are also ingenious traps that keep flies buzzing around until they pollinate all parts of the flower.
Voodoo lily flowers also produce heat, raising the temperature of the air in the flower by several degrees. Some botanists have reported flower temperatures as high as 110°F (43°C) in cool shade! This increase in temperature makes the flies more active. However, Voodoo lilies attract flies only for pollination purposes and are sometimes mistaken for carnivores.
To qualify as carnivorous, a plant must:
1) They have a special mechanism for catching insects.
2) Excretion of enzymes for insect decomposition.
3) Digest and use the nutrients found in the insect.
Almost all plants growing in your garden get their food through their roots. Nitrogen, phosphorus, minerals and other nutrients are absorbed by expansive root systems located below the soil surface.
Roots are designed to seek out rich deposits of nutrients and water. Once found, they collect the available nutrients and send them to the upper parts of the plant to produce leaves, branches, flowers and fruits.
On the other hand, carnivorous plants grow in acidic and nutrient-poor soil. Therefore, they have to get their nutrition in other ways, mainly through leaves.
Their leaves are designed to trap insects where they break down into an easily absorbable form. Although there are several methods that carnivorous plants use to capture insects, they all use digestive chemicals, called enzymes, to increase absorption.
These enzymes are very similar to those found in your digestive tract. Enzymes break down proteins into smaller pieces that can pass through tough plant cell walls.
So, based on these criteria, the voodoo lily is not a carnivore at all. No part of their flower has been found to secrete any nutrient-absorbing chemicals, although flies have been known to die in its flower from utter exhaustion. Without digestive chemicals that absorb nutrients through the leaves, the voodoo lily is not a carnivorous plant.
Voodoo lilies also attract flies with their gut-wrenching, flesh-rotting, fragrant flower. On the other hand, carnivorous plants attract flies with the sweet nectar secreted by their leaves. No carnivorous plant produces a scent that even comes close to the foulness of the Voodoo Lily.
So the next time you see or smell a Voodoo lily, you can tell your friends why it’s not a carnivorous plant.
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