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The Facts and Myth of Man-eating Plants

March 25th, 2009

Have you heard of plants eating man?  These silent species have been featured in books, news, television and film.  History tells that native tribes wandering through unfamiliar sites in the jungle were weary and fearful of man-eating plants.

Wayback 1881, a German adventurer named Carl Liche wrote a story about his expedition in Madagascar where he saw a human being sacrificed to feed a man-eating tree.  Upon investigation, he was told that while the natives, called Mkodo tribe, were wandering through the jungle, they chanced upon a weird-looking tree.

The natives revered the tree and warned the German to move away.  They brought a woman close to the tree and in front of Liche’s eyes; the tree moved to grab the woman and ate her.  This story continued for sometime gaining popularity and fear in the 1924 book named Madagascar, Land of the Man-Eating Tree.

It was later found, however, in the 1955 book titled Salamanders and other Wonders, that the story on the man-eating tree in Madagascar were all fabrications including Liche.

Another story was published in The Flowering of the Strange Orchid that a man called Winter Wedderburn was fond of raising orchids.  He purchased an orchid plant which was rumored to have come from a corpse of a man who took it in the wild jungle.  But he didn’t care for it and continued nurturing the plant until it grew to be a beautiful, exotic orchid.

However, his housekeeper observed that the plant was growing weird and consumed fertilizers than the other orchids.  Nothing more significant happened until some flowers started to bloom in the orchid.  The fearful day occurred finally that after a week’s absence, the housekeeper found his master lying beside the orchid completely passed out.

The orchid rooted into his veins thru its strong, hard tendrils.  Up to this time, nobody knew if the story in the book is a reality or a myth.

An exotic plant called the Venus Fly Trap has what appears to be its mouth at the tip of its leaves.  Its mouth is designed likely to consume flesh in less than a second.  Being known as a carnivorous plant, its jaw reopens after a meal of meat has been digested.  There is still a doubt, however, why this flesh-eating plant has been a favorite pet-plant in home gardens.

Another flesh-eating plant, the Audrey Jr./2 has been used in Hollywood films, Broadway musical extravaganza and in children’s cartoon.  The Audrey Jr. was first seen in the Roger Corman of 1960’s B-movie titled Little Shop of Horrors.  The plant was believed to belong to the species of Venus Fly Trap as a hybrid.

Venus Fly Trap is the most well-known carnivorous plant found only in specific places, but pitcher plants are the most common which can be seen in various parts of the globe.  Among the famous carnivorous plants, the Nepenthes also known as Tropical Pitcher Plants have the ability to consume mammals.  Their traps are so large that dead rats, frogs, lizards and birds have been discovered to be within their body.

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