Five astonishing plant adaptations

From listening for hungry caterpillars to symbiotic relationships with bats, here are five of the strangest plant adaptations found in nature.


The carnivore

Any moment now... © Getty Images
Any moment now… © Getty Images

Venus flytraps rely on touch to know when they should close on a victim, and they have even learned to count in order to avoid false positives.


To ensure that they’re capturing a living, wriggling insect, traps only shut after two taps, and will only begin digesting prey after three more distinct touches.


The strangler

Plants as vampires © Getty Images
Plants as vampires © Getty Images

A parasitic plant known as the dodder vine locates its prey by scent.

When odours from a tomato plant are wafted towards the vine, these chemical cues prompt the plant to send a tendril snaking towards the source. This vampiric tendril will wrap around its victim before extracting the goodness from within.


The bat-lover

A species of Bornean pitcher plant gets its nutrients from bat poo, and the best way to secure a steady supply of this niche foodstuff is by encouraging bats to roost inside it.

To do this, the plant has evolved a reflective hood that bounces bats’ calls back at them, enticing them to visit and settle down.

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The fibre-optic sunlight cable

Plants have light receptors in their roots, but until recently the reason for this was unclear.In 2016, research revealed that the stem of the thale cress plant behaves like a fibre optic cable, funnelling sunlight down into the root system, where it triggers the production of proteins that promote healthy growth.


The listener

Arabidopsis plant © Getty Images
Arabidopsis plant © Getty Images

Classical music won’t make your plants grow bigger but that doesn’t mean they are completely indifferent to sounds in their environment.


Playing recordings of chomping caterpillars to Arabidopsis plants is enough to make them flood their leaves with chemicals designed to ward off attackers.