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Althalus

I just found this

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SCIENCE JOTTINGS

By Dr. Andrew Wilson, Illustrated London News, 1892.

I have lately met with the description of a very singular plant, given origianlly, I believe, in a provincial newspaper. As one is always interested in the strange and weird as represented in nature, I give the account for what it is worth. It mey be nothing more than a peice of fiction, of course (I have learned caution from more than one instance of a joke being stated in the gravest of terms); but if, on the contrary, the incident described was a real one, I shall expect to hear something more about this wonderful plant. Perhaps some of my readers may be able to inform me whether or not the matter is a 'plant,' vulgarly speaking, in another sense.

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It appears that a naturalist, a Mr. Dunstan by name, was botanising in one of the swamps aroung the Nicaragua Lake. The account goes on to relate that "while hunting for specimens he heard his dog cry out, as if in agony, from a distance. Running to the spot whence the animals cries came, Mr. Dunstan found him enveloped in a perfect networkof what seemed to be a fine, rope-like tissue, of roots and fibres. The plant or vine seemed composed entirely of bare, interlacing stems, resembling more than anything else the branches of a weeping willow denuded of its foliage, but of a dark, nearly black hue, and covered with a thick, viscid gum that exuded from the pores. Drawing his knife, Mr. Dunstan attempted to cut the poor beast free, but it ws with very great difficulty that he managed to sever the fleshy muscular fibres (sic) of the plant. When the dog was extricated from the coils of the plant, Mr. Dunstan saw to his horror that its body was bloodstained, while the skin appeared to be actually sucked or puckered in spots, and the animal staggered as if from exhaustion. In cutting the vine the twigs curled like living, sinuous fingers about Mr. Dunstan's hand, amd it required no slight force to free the member from their clinging grasp, which left the flesh red and blistered. The tree, it seems, is well known to the natives, who relate meny stories of its death-dealing powers. Its appetite is voracious and insatiable, and in five minutes it will suck the nourishment out of a large lump of meat, rejecting the carcass (sic) as a spider does that of a used-up fly." This is a very circumstantial account of the incident, but in such tales it is, of course, absurd "to leave such a matter to a doubt." If correct, it is very clear we have yet to add a very notable example to the list of plants which demand an animal dietary as a condition of their existence ; and our sundews, Venus flytraps, and pitcher plants will then have to 'pale their ineffectual fires' before the big devourer of the Nicaragua swamps.

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In the September 24, 1892, issue, Dr. Wilson reports further:

"The 'snake-tree' is described in a newspaper paragraph as found on an outlying spur of the Sierra Madre, in Mexico. It has movable branches (by which I suppose, is meant sensitive branches), of a 'slimy, snaky appearance,' which seized a bird that incautiously alighted on them, the bird being drawn down till the traveller lost sight of it. Where did the bird go to? Latterly it fell to the ground, flattened out, the earth being covered with bones and feathers, the debris, no doubt, of former captures. The adventurous traveller touched one of the branches of the tree. It closed upon his hand with such force as to tear the skin when he wrenched it away. He then fed the tree with chickens, and the tree absorbed their blood by means of the suckers (like those of the octopus) with which its branches were covered."

In his 1911 book Myths and Legends of Flowers, Trees, Fruits, and Plants, American folklorist Charles M. Skinner mentions a similar horror, the Rattle-snake Bush of Mexico, which was "a tree of serpents that wound its arms about men and animals that tried to pass, and stung and strangled them to death."

Finally, from the Field Museum of Natural History's Botany Leaflet 23, Carnivorous Plants and "The Man-Eating Tree" (1939), by Sophia Pryor, comes the story of the "Monkey-Trap Tree":

A recent report is credited to a Brazilian explorer named Mariano da Silva who returned from an expedition that led him into a district of Brazil that borders on Guyana. He had there sought out the settlement of Yatapu Indians. During his journey he saw a tree which nourishes itself on animals. The tree itself exudes a peculiar sharp odor which attracts its victims, especially monkeys. As soon as they climb the trunk, all is up with them, for very quickly they are completely closed in by the leaves, and one neither hears nor sees them again. After about three days the leaves open and let drop to the earth the bones, completely stripped.

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good info there. seems very interesting

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Intresting find Al smile.gif

I think it could be quite likely that these plants do exist, as we have the smaller varieties of flesh eating plants. ( I have one in my kitchen)

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That's all very scary to think about ~ even plants are predators! ohmy.gif

I would like to see a video of this (time lapse perhaps?) smile.gif

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you WANT to see this? what kind of a sick freak are you KC?

i doubt that is a realistic story because plants are not sentient. also, plants would have no need to 'eat' animals because it is a terribly inefficient system of nutrition with all that perfectly good dirt and water around. it reminds me of this natural spring i found once as a child... it had the largest fish you had ever seen! the water was crystal clear blue and too cold to swim in. i was so excited about catching one of those fish that i hiked home and came back the next day with a fishing pole (as it was a few hours hike from my house into the forest). well, i had no luck at all and was completely baffled until an archaeologist showed up at the spring. seems that spring was used in Indian human sacrifice rituals and they had discovered a settlement nearby and been working it over for quite some time. he told me that several of his friends had also tried to fish there and come up empty too. the thing is that the spring had existed for so many years untouched by man that it was a perfectly balanced system(thus the gigantic fish). the fish were so well nourished they wouldn't even look at your worm because there were too many other good things to eat in that spring. this is just my long way of saying, why would a plant evolve to eating animal flesh? its just stupid considering how successfully they make use of dirt and sunlight.

that spring is possibly the coolest thing i have ever seen in all of my hikes. i was lucky to discover it by following a large creek for miles and miles into the woods. the archaelogist knew the man who owned those woods and the spring so luckily i got to meet him too. he gave me a cup and we both just went over and drank the water right out of the spring. it was the best tasting water ive ever had. he told me they once bottled it right from the source (as the spring went down at least 200 ft with a white sandy bottom) but it wasnt profitable. i guess that was before the bottled water craze caught on laugh.gif

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you WANT to see this?  what kind of a sick freak are you KC?  

I myself am of the lowest kind: a sadistic, reality impared, mentally unstabe sick freak. Freddy Krueger is my hero, I like my two day old coffee black, I believe Heavy Metal is the sound of the heavens, and I would also like to see a video of this plant's dietary habits and table manners (might give me some pointers on how to improve my own). smile.gif

I used to have a venus flytrap when I was a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing to drop a fly or a piece of lunch meat on it and watch it close around it. No time lapse required.

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I'm with KC - SHOW US! SHOW US!

It certainly sounds pretty interesting and what's to stop a plant from feasting on an animal. There are other carniverous plants, and some that move very quickly too. It's odd that we've not heard more about them, which casts a little bit of doubt on the plausability of the story.

Interesting nonetheless. blink.gif

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More details have to be given to the wherabouts of the plant. You see as DS said if it is found on fertile soil, then you would more than likely use that article as tissue paper if it were printed judging by its veracity. However... swamps usually have very poor soil, in the sense that it hasn't got the adequate pH or nutrients for normal plants to flourish, so maybe in that area certain plants may opt for more... unconventional ways of obtaining its nutrients. However as DS said, consuming flesh or other edibles is a terrible waste of energy compared to the efficiency of photosynthesis.

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LB and schadeaux ~ thanks guys! wub.gif

I knew there was a special reason why I like you so much. wink.gif

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