Nature Nugget – Carnivorous Plants

In boggy, acid soils, decay takes place quite slowly. Consequently, little nitrogen is available to the roots of plants growing there. Certain plants thrive by capturing insects and other small creatures and digesting them to acquire the nitrogen and other elements that they need. A very well-known example is the Venus’ Flytrap that is native to the coastal areas of the Carolinas.

The inside of the double-lobed, hinged leaves of the Venus’ Flytrap is red to attract insects. Near the central vein of each leaf are trigger hairs that signal the leaf to close when touched. The leaf can close on an unsuspecting insect in less than a second! Bristles along the leaf edges interlock, trapping the unlucky victim. The leaf remains closed with its meal for about a week while antibacterial substances prevent putrification, and enzymes dissolve all but the external skeleton of the insect. When this process is finished, the leaf reopens in readiness for another meal.

Another native group of plants closely related to the Venus’ Flytrap is the Sundews. Sundews are small, with reddish leaves arranged in a basal roseate. The leaves are equipped with glandular hairs that exude glittering drops of clear, sweet, sticky fluid. Insects, attracted by an appetizing odor plus the sweetness of the droplets, quickly become stuck among the hairs. Neighboring hairs are triggered to bend like tentacles toward the struggling insect, further binding it and eventually suffocating it. The leaves roll up and secrete protein-digesting enzymes, which cause the release of nitrogen and other vital elements that are then absorbed by the leaves.

Another bog-loving, carnivorous plant is the Pitcher Plant. These are mostly found in the southeastern United States and have hoods over the open mouth of their upright hollow leaves. Pitcher Plants hold small pools of water in their modified hollow leaves or “pitchers.” Insects are attracted to the pitchers, often by the odor of decay within, and are forced into the water by a lining of stiff, downward-pointing hairs. Once they are in the water a narcotic kills them, and bacteria begin to decompose them, and enzymes convert their protein into usable nitrogen. The larvae of certain flies and mosquitoes have adapted to live unharmed in the water of the Pitcher Plants, feeding on the insects trapped there. Bladderworts and Butterworts comprise another group of carnivorous plants. Bladderworts are found throughout North America and are mostly aquatic. The plume-like leaves are modified with small bladder-like traps that catch various forms of microscopic aquatic animal life. Each little bladder has a trap door triggered by sensitive hairs. When tiny water animals touch the hairs, the door opens and the creatures are sucked in to be digested. Butterworts of the southeastern coastal plain are herbs of moist soil with a roseate of greasy leaves. Small insects alighting on a Butterwort leaf are trapped by its sticky yellowish surface. After several insects have been trapped, the leaf edges roll inward, engulfing the insects and secreting enzymes that extract nitrogen and other vital elements from the accumulated victims. Then the leaf reopens.

Like these insect-trapping plants, Satan sets traps and snares to catch unwary souls and plunge them into a life of sin. “For among my people are found wicked [men]: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.” Jeremiah 5:26. “Satan is a cunning worker, and he will bring in subtle fallacies to darken and confuse the mind and root out the doctrines of salvation. Those who do not accept the Word of God just as it reads, will be snared in his trap.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 52. But we have the following hope: “If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32. Praise God!

Nature Nugget – Resurrection Plants

In the deserts of southwestern North America lives a plant known as the Resurrection Plant. It belongs to a group of plants known as Lycopods, whose members go by the common names of ground pines and club mosses. Lycopods are small plants that usually grow in moist locations. They lack flowers, fruits, and seeds; reproducing by single-celled spores. Their leaves are not true leaves, but leaf-like extensions of the stem.

The Resurrection Plant is different from other Lycopods in that it grows in dry, arid desert habitats. It has a special adaptation that allows it to live in this harsh environment. When the soil is moist after the infrequent rains that the deserts receive, the Resurrection Plant absorbs water and grows rapidly, producing a flat rosette of scaly stems up to one foot across. As the soil dries, it cannot store water like its succulent neighbors the cacti, so it folds up its stems into a tight ball as it dehydrates and goes into a state of dormancy. The plant can tolerate almost complete water loss in its vegetative tissues. The folded plant has a greatly reduced surface area, which helps conserve what little internal moisture is present. All its metabolic functions are reduced to a bare minimum, and it appears to be dead.

The desiccated plant can remain alive in this dried state for several years. The plant is able to do this because of large amounts of sucrose that it accumulates in its tissues. This sugar has the property of stabilizing enzymes and cellular structures in the absence of water. When the rains return, the plant’s cells rehydrate, the stems unfold, metabolism increases, and growth resumes.

In the eastern United States, there is a species of evergreen fern called the Resurrection Fern. This species is an epiphyte or air plant, and grows on the shaded branches of trees and occasionally on rocks and logs. Like most epiphytes, Resurrection Ferns get their nutrients from the air and from water and nutrients that collect on the surface upon which they are growing. Instead of true roots, they have rhizoids with which they attach themselves to surfaces. The ferns can survive long periods of drought by curling up their leaf fronds with their bottom sides upwards. In this way, they can rehydrate more quickly when rain comes, as water is more easily absorbed through the bottom of the leaves. During dry spells, the ferns appear dessicated, gray-brown, and dead, but when they are watered, they quickly uncurl and reopen, turning a bright green. Experiments have shown that this species can lose up to 97 percent of its internal water and remain alive, although they more typically only lose 76 percent of their water during dry spells.

These resurrection plants are a lesson in nature reminding us of the resurrection of Christ and the soon resurrection of the righteous dead at His second coming. Christ said, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” John 11:25. “At the Saviour’s resurrection a few graves were opened, but at His second coming all the precious dead shall hear His voice, and shall come forth to glorious, immortal life. The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise His church, and glorify it with Him, above all principalities, above all powers, above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the world to come.” The Desire of Ages, 787.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: