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Triantha occidentalis

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Triantha occidentalis
Scientific classification
T. occidentalis
Binomial name
Triantha occidentalis
(S.Watson) R.R.Gates

Tofieldia occidentalis S.Watson

Triantha occidentalis is a species of carnivorous plant which grows in the Pacific Northwest. It catches and digests insects with sticky hairs on its stems.[1] There are three different kinds, or subspecies, of T. occidentalis: those with thinner seeds and stickier hairs are the subspecies (written subsp.) montana, those with groups of flowers in a spherical shape are subsp. occidentalis, and those with groups of flowers in a pill shape, occurring more inland, are subsp. brevistyla.[2]

Description[change | change source]

T. occidentalis only grows a few leaves, as many as three and as few as none. These leaves grow in tufts from the ground, and can be up to 80 cm (31 in) long. During its flowering season, stems grow from the bases of these tufts, and flowers grow at the ends of these stems. The stems have sticky hairs to catch and digest insects. It can have as many as 45 white or yellowish flowers, which grow in round clumps called an inflorescence. Within this clump, flowers often grow in groups of 3. The flowers have long stamens, the part which holds the pollen, and a noticeable style, the part which accepts the pollen to create reddish-brown seeds. The seeds are contained in an inflated, white coating with a tail-like part at either end.[2]

Distribution and habitat[change | change source]

T. occidentalis grows in boggy, wet areas of Northwestern America where soils contain a lot of calcium carbonate, or chalk.[3] It grows along the coast of the Pacific ocean, from Alaska down to California, and as far inland as Alberta, Wyoming, and Idaho.[4]

Carnivory[change | change source]

Since T. occidentalis grows in nutrient-poor soil, it absorbs additional nutrients by capturing and digesting insects in a unique way. Its sticky hairs capture the insects, and the hairs on the stems produce a digestive enzyme called phosphatase, a common digestive agent in plant carnivores, to eat the insects. T. occidentalis is unique among other plants in its class, the monocots: all other carnivorous plants in this class create a trap by gathering water for insects to drown in. T. occidentalis is also unique among other plants that use sticky hairs to capture insects, like the sundew, since its sticky hairs grow all along the stems which carry the flowers. Most carnivorous plants avoid this, since it might cause pollinating insects visiting the flowers to be accidentally captured instead of prey insects. However, most pollinators are larger and strong enough to escape the sticky hairs, while prey insects are too small and weak to escape. The scientists who discovered that this plant is carnivorous believe that other plants in its genus Triantha could also be carnivorous, but it is still unknown.[5]

References[change | change source]

  1. Chambers, Jaime (18 August 2021). "A well-known wildflower turns out to be a secret carnivore". ScienceNews. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Triantha occidentalis in Flora of North America on efloras.org". www.efloras.org. p. 62. Retrieved 2024-02-17.
  3. Kershaw, L.; The Alberta Native Plant Council (2001). Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta. University of Alberta Press. p. 44. ISBN 9780888643193.
  4. "Triantha occidentalis (S.Watson) R.R.Gates". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  5. Lina, Qianshi; Anéc, Cécile; Givnishc, Thomas J.; Graham, Sean W. (9 August 2021). "A new carnivorous plant lineage (Triantha) with a unique sticky-inflorescence trap". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118 (33). doi:10.1073/pnas.2022724118.