In late October, little monsters, witches, ghosts and other masked creatures will descend onto the streets of Ohio, going door to door tricking and treating for candy. But lurking in the dark woods and lonely fields are monsters of the plant world. Who would ever guess there are plants that eerily glow in the dark, eat fresh bug meat, and act like vampires sucking the life from other innocent plants!
One sunny May afternoon, I was taking a ride with a friend through the countryside of Pickaway County. We crossed a bridge over a small creek. As we passed a strange plant caught my eye. I asked my friend to back up, and I got out of the car to look at a pale looking wildflower with a white bloom. The flower was a ghostly off-white with no green and bore a fairly large white flower. Since the plants lacks any chlorophyll, it isn’t able to produce nutrients from sunlight and must find its food by attaching itself to other plants. Naked Broom Rape usually grows over roots of trees and sucking their food, like a vampire, from the tree roots.
On another similar trip through Saltcreek township in southern Pickaway County we were driving along a creek enjoying the various colorful wildflowers. We came upon a mass of reddish orange tangled leafless vines. The Dodder vine, also known as witches’ hair, wizard’s net or devil’s guts starts as a seed, but once it germinates it loses its roots and hunts for its prey. It sinks it’s equivalent of fanged barbs into plants and sucks out the nutrients like a blood sucking vampire!
In the dark comedy, Little House of Horrors, we remember the meat craving plant begging its owner, “Seymour feeeed me!” Quietly living in swamps and bogs of Ohio, flesh eating plants sit quietly waiting for an unaware bug to land on them and become trapped and eaten.
Probably the best known carnivorous or meat-eating plant is the Venus Fly trap. The plants have pod like mouths and when a bug lands on the pod, it quickly snaps shut, trapping the bug. The plant uses special enzymes to dissolve the insect and absorbs the liquefied nutrients!
The Pitcher Plant has long tubes filled with liquid. The bug falls down into the tube and cannot escape, and eventually drowns in the liquid and is dissolved and eaten by the plant.
The Sun-Dew plant secretes a sweet sticky fluid that attracts the bugs and once they land on the plant, they become stuck in the sticky fluid. The tentacles on the leaves hold the bug while the leaves curl up and immediately begins digesting the helpless victim.
Can you imagine walking alone in a dark forest? In the distance you might hear something rustling through the dry leaves, a twig snap, or you jump when an owl hoots. In the darkness, you see an eerie green glow. You can hear your heart beating wildly within your chest! What could possibly be glowing in the dark? Don’t fear because it is probably a bioluminescent fungus commonly known as the Bitter Oyster. Often the light from the fungus is known as Fox Fire or Fairy Glow. The mushroom emits a strange green glow that can be bright enough to read by.
This Halloween, as witches fly across the full moon and spirits roam the Earth, remember the strange and fascinating plants quietly lurking in the forests and swamps of Ohio!
Image by LynnB