Beware of Killer Petunias

NEWS of The Controversy is slow, so we visited the website PhysOrg, “a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics.” There we found Scientists think ‘killer petunias’ should join the ranks of carnivorous plants. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Natural History Museum believe that carnivorous behaviour in plants is far more widespread than previously thought, with many commonly grown plants – such as petunias – at least part way to being “meat eaters”.

They’re serious. Here’s a link to the abstract of Murderous plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and modern insights into vegetable carnivory, published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Let’s read on:

Carnivorous plants fascinated Charles Darwin, and he and his friend Sir Joseph Hooker (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew at that time) had an extensive correspondence concerning them. Darwin’s book Insectivorous Plants played a critical role in the idea that plants could eat animals being generally accepted. Before this, many botanists (including Linnaeus) had refused to accept that this could be the case.

Darwin strikes again! He not only took the mystery out of creation, but now we have to keep a watchful eye on the stylish carnation in our Curmudgeonly lapel — it may be out to get us.

We continue:

Plants like petunias and potatoes have sticky hairs that trap insects, and some species of campion have the common name catchfly for the same reason. However, some of the commonly accepted carnivores have not been demonstrated to have the ability to digest the insects they trap or to absorb the breakdown products. In their paper, Chase et al. review each of the groups of potential carnivores.

If you can’t even trust a potato, then what can you trust? Here’s one more excerpt:

Professor Mark Chase, Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew says, “Although a man-eating tree is fictional, many commonly grown plants may turn out to be cryptic carnivores, at least by absorbing through their roots the breakdown products of the animals that they ensnare. We may be surrounded by many more murderous plants than we think.

There you are, dear reader. Now you know that the world is far more dangerous than you ever imagined. Even the divinely-shaped banana that fits so cozily in Ray Comfort’s hand may turn out to be an assassin.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Beware of Killer Petunias

  1. Audrey II and space aliens.

  2. Careful Ray, that banana might be loaded!

    (We should be so lucky)

  3. retiredsciguy

    “…many commonly grown plants may turn out to be cryptic carnivores, at least by absorbing through their roots the breakdown products of the animals that they ensnare.”

    Another way a plant could be successful doing this would be to have a very fast-acting poison in its seemingly edible leaves or fruit. The hapless nibbling animal would die on the spot, and its rotting carcass would nourish the plant.

  4. I like that scene from The attack of the killer tomatoes where the sidekick has donned a paper mache tomato costume and has infiltrated the tomatoes, but then makes the mistake of asking them for ketchup.

  5. I’ve been meaning to come back around to this post and express my appreciation for it as a pleasant diversion from the CRU silliness. I’d almost forgotten it and then just ran into this at the nytimes.com. There’s lots of good stuff there that I could quote, related to various reasons why plants might become more carnivorous over the long haul for purely defensive reasons.

    I also recall an old SNL monologue by A. Whitney Brown in which he proclaims that I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants!. There’s a blog here about the remainder of his piece which has a bit of seasonal relevance.

    Speaking of the season, happy solstice. Here’s one more link.

    “During this winter-solstice season, illuminate your mind with reason. Let friends and family warm your heart. And celebrate that we all take part. The Colorado Coalition of Reason.

    Who can’t get on board with a coalition of reason?

  6. Oroboros the Odious says: “Who can’t get on board with a coalition of reason?”

    Would you like the names of a few creationist outfits to get you started?