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Tomatoes as Carnivorous Plants

tomato plant stemHave you ever wondered why tomatoes, potatoes, and some other plants have hairy stems? Of course not. Neither have I, until I encountered an explanation in the Telegraph yesterday.

Botanists have discovered for the first time that the plants are carnivorous predators who kill insects in order to “self-fertilise” themselves. New research shows that they capture and kill small insects with sticky hairs on their stems and then absorb nutrients through their roots when the animals decay and fall to the ground. It is thought that the technique was developed in the wild in order to supplement the nutrients in poor quality soil – but even domestic varieties grown in your vegetable patch retain the ability.

The fact that they are capable feeding on small insects has been overlooked because domesticated varities are typically grown in rich soils where such dietary supplementation is unnecessary. They of course also lack the dramatic apparatus shown below in the outstanding video of the Venus flytrap, or the adaptations shown by the sundew and pitcher plant.

Link. Photo credit Tom Bullock.

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Date
December 5th, 2009

Author
Stranger to the World

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