PITCHER PLANTS: The Elegant Insect Traps by Carol Lerner

PITCHER PLANTS: The Elegant Insect Traps

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A gracefully detailed, gracefully illustrated report on the carniverous pitcher plants, which grow in soils that lack certain minerals and thus catch insects to supply the missing nutrients. Lerner interweaves considerations of form, function, and environment, describing first the pitcher plants' leaves--""elegant, handsome, and deadly""--whose sugary nectar attracts the insects and whose construction propels their victims to the bottom of the ""pitcher,"" to be broken down by the plants' powerful digestive enzymes. Similarly, she notes how the flowers, ""also strange and beautiful,"" have, like other flowering plants, developed structures that ""almost guarantee"" cross-fertilization; and how, unlike other plants, the pitcher plant species easily interbreed--but taking the train of thought a step further, she then explains why it still makes sense to talk about different species. The final section emphasizes the close relationship between pitcher plants and a variety of insects, some of whom raid the plants' underground ""plump storehouse"" (the rhizomes filled with starches) while others ""invade even the leaves and turn these death traps to their own advantage."" ""None of these animals is entirely safe from the danger of the trap, and some of them never leave the leaf; but a number of insects spend a large part of their lives within the pitcher leaves without suffering any harm."" As a further twist, there are the carrion eaters who enter the leaves in pursuit of decomposing insects and remain to share their fate. An ever-enticing topic, thoughtfully and pleasingly presented.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow