Meet the Speedsters of the Plant World
Published:24 May2018    Source:Science News

Somewhere in the wetlands of South Carolina, a buzzing fly alights on a rosy-pink surface. As the fly explores the strange scenery, it unknowingly brushes a small hair sticking up like a slender sword. Strolling along, the fly accidentally grazes another hair. Suddenly, the pink surface closes in from both sides, snapping shut like a pair of ravenous jaws. The blur of movement lasts only a tenth of a second, but the fly is trapped forever.


All plants grow, a rather slow form of motion, but many can also move rapidly. The snapping jaws of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) are the most famous example, but far from the only one. The botanical world offers plenty of equally impressive feats. The explosive sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), also known as the dynamite tree, can launch seeds far enough to cross an Olympic-sized swimming pool; sundews (genus Drosera) have sticky tendrils that curl around prey; and the touch-me-not (Mimosa pudica) folds in its compound leaves within seconds of a touch.