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Thread: Could a tree that uses its branches to constrict large prey exist?

  1. #1 Could a tree that uses its branches to constrict large prey exist? 
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    I remember a story about this (a hoax) but it still raises questions.In the (fictional) story, the tree was called the '' Tepe '', and in the story the tree would feed on lemurs by strangulating them with its branches alike to tentacles. Is it possible for such a tree to exist/evolve which uses capilary/water/elastic action in its branches/leaves (branches that aren't hard and stiff) to constrict around prey? There's a plant species named Drosera which does this, but can this effect be scaled up?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard
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    Larger plants prefer to use poison instead.


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Larger plants prefer to use poison instead.
    They do, but I ask if this Drosera-like movement of the leaves is possible on a tree scale, and this rolling of the leaves is strong enough to kill by constriction.
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  5. #4  
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    I don't think it is.
    The reason I think it is not possible has to do with the flexibility of the cell walls. Small plant structuress don't need to support very much weight so they can get away with less cellulose in the cell walls which means they are more flexible.
    Larger structures like branches are heavy so the cell walls have to be stiff enough to support them which means they are woody.

    Plants do change the angles and direction of stems, trunks and branches to some degree as they grow, but the rate they can move them at is very slow and usually in response to sunlight availability.
    Some plants like squash and pea produce tendrils to wrap objects with, but again these are fairly light structures and slow moving. Sunflowers and a few others like the compass plant can be seen to turn through the day to follow the sun, again it is a fairly slow motion.

    Trees are capable of changing the direction of a branch in response to sunlight or other environmental factors but the movement is extremely slow and mostly caused by changing the cellular growth rates in different areas on the branch.
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  6. #5  
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    Interpreting "on a tree scale" very liberally, you could say that many vines do this already. Just in very slow motion - and they choke/ strangle/ constrict/ smother shrubs and trees, not animals.

    I have never seen anything about a larger scale version of that Drosera like action, and I would have expected one of those 'believe it or not' shows or magazines to have reported it if it's been observed. I rather suspect that the physics involved wouldn't support it.

    (If it happens at all, very big IF, I'd expect the process would much more likely be based on much slower action following trapping by an extremely sticky surface or other entanglement. But going back to the earlier point, people are fascinated by such plants and I'm pretty sure someone would have reported it if it had been observed.)
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    ... But going back to the earlier point, people are fascinated by such plants and I'm pretty sure someone would have reported it if it had been observed.)
    Unless the tree was very quiet about it and left no witnesses.

    "The Little Shop of Horrors"
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    Interpreting "on a tree scale" very liberally, you could say that many vines do this already. Just in very slow motion - and they choke/ strangle/ constrict/ smother shrubs and trees, not animals.

    I have never seen anything about a larger scale version of that Drosera like action, and I would have expected one of those 'believe it or not' shows or magazines to have reported it if it's been observed. I rather suspect that the physics involved wouldn't support it.

    (If it happens at all, very big IF, I'd expect the process would much more likely be based on much slower action following trapping by an extremely sticky surface or other entanglement. But going back to the earlier point, people are fascinated by such plants and I'm pretty sure someone would have reported it if it had been observed.)
    If the poster is who I think, we can expect a response along the lines of, "How can you KNOW it is impossible…..closed minds. censorship in science…., blah blah blah….[repeat and fade]…..

    ..and anyway, what about spontaneous combustion?….

    Though it would be lovely to be proved wrong by a sensible response, of course.
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  9. #8  
    Cooking Something Good MacGyver1968's Avatar
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    According to wiki, the largest carnivorous plant is the Nepenthes rajah. Which can grow to around 38 cm, and trap mice.

    Nepenthes rajah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankBaker View Post
    I remember a story about this (a hoax) but it still raises questions.In the (fictional) story, the tree was called the '' Tepe '', and in the story the tree would feed on lemurs by strangulating them with its branches alike to tentacles. Is it possible for such a tree to exist/evolve which uses capilary/water/elastic action in its branches/leaves (branches that aren't hard and stiff) to constrict around prey? There's a plant species named Drosera which does this, but can this effect be scaled up?
    In case some readers are interested, there is no mention, in the Wiki article about Drosera, of it killing its insect prey by constriction: Drosera - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The mechanism appears to be sticky secretions that trap the insect and the movement is to bring as many of the sticky, secreting "tentacles"or hairs into contact with the prey. Movement can be fairly rapid but there is no suggestion it exerts enough pressure to contribute the death of the organism.

    However if a botanist has contrary information, it would be interesting to know.
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  11. #10  
    Time Lord Paleoichneum's Avatar
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    Drosera species kill via the secretion of digestive enzymes onto the trapped insects and then absorption of the insect goo into the cells after. No constriction is involved.
    If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

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    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    I think I recall this from the Wizard of Oz. The trees also pelt you with apples if you insult them.
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