inside the flower

The corpse flower’s large bloom attracts certain kinds of pollinators with its bad smell.

Big Stink

In the rich soil of a rain forest in Sumatra, a rare flower is about to bloom. It has been growing for nine years. The blossom will only open for 48 hours. It needs to be pollinated during that time.

The flower begins to unfurl. Inside it is warm and deep red. But it’s the smell that you notice. The titan arum plant, also called the corpse plant, is the smelliest bloom on the planet. Its bad odor advertises a free meal. It’s irresistible to insects that feed on dead things. They land on the flower. Then they pollinate it as they wander around looking for food.

The Venus flytrap’s leaves are lined with trigger hairs. They snap together to trap insects.

The Need for Speed

A flash of red catches a fly’s attention. A sweet smell suggests food. The fly lands on the sticky, red surface. This is actually the inside of a hinged leaf.

Before the fly can fly off, the leaf snaps shut like a mouth. The spiky edges of the leaf act like a fence. The fly struggles, but it’s no use. It has been caught by a Venus flytrap. And, it’s on its way to being eaten!

Like many plants, a Venus flytrap gathers nutrients from soil and air. But, these plants live in poor soil. They can’t get the nutrients they need. So, they feed themselves by eating live prey.

The plant’s leaves are hinged like a clamshell. Inside are stiff hairs that sense motion. When an insect moves across one hair, nothing happens. But when a second hair is touched, the leaf snaps shut. The insect is trapped.

The plant’s digestive juices then break down the soft parts of the insect. After nutrients are absorbed, the leaf opens. The unwanted parts fall out.