Stylidium - Characteristics - Carnivory


Stylidium species with glandular trichomes on their sepals, leaves, flower parts, or scapes have been suggested to be protocarnivorous (or paracarnivorous). The tip of the trichome produces a sticky mucilage—a mixture of sugar polymers and water—that is capable of attracting and suffocating small insects. The ability to trap insects may be a defensive mechanism against damage to flower parts. However, trichomes of S. fimbriatum have been shown to produce digestive enzymes, specifically proteases, like other carnivorous plants. Adding species of Stylidium to the list of plants that engage in carnivory would significantly increase the total number of known carnivorous plants.

The insects captured by the glandular trichomes are too small to serve any role in pollination. It is unclear, however, whether these plants evolved the ability to trap and kill insects as an adaptation to low environmental nutrient availability or simply a defensive mechanism against insects damaging flower parts.

There is also a correlation between location of Stylidium species and proximity of known carnivorous species, like sundews (Drosera), bladderworts (Utricularia), the Albany pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis), and the rainbow plant (Byblis). While this alone does not prove that Stylidium species are themselves carnivorous, the hypothesis is that the association arose because Stylidium species and the known carnivorous plants obtain scarce nutrients using the same source, namely captured insects. Preliminary proof is given that the trapping mechanisms of two associated plants are the same (the tentacles of Byblis and Drosera), though this may be only a coincidence and further research must be done.

Read more about this topic:  Stylidium, Characteristics

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