"One of the most wonderful plants in the world"
We bought one of these for my daughter yesterday – a Venus Fly Trap, Dionaea muscipula. Of course, the one we bought doesn’t look as good, probably due to mishandling by the retailer. I hadn’t realized that Dionaea only naturally grows in southern North Carolina and our big problem is finding a place that will give the plant six or so hours of sunlight without frying it in the Arizona heat. I may have to make a terrarium.
The species was discovered by Arthur Dobbs, Governor of North Carolina between 1754 and 1765, who called it “the great wonder of the vegetable kingdom.” Over a hundred years later, Darwin wrote about the species in one of his lesser known works, Insectivorous Plants (1875, see especially Chapter XIII), describing Dionaea as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.”
A recent study (American Journal of Botany, 2002) has used genetic evidence to argue that “snap-traps are derived from flypaper-traps and have a common ancestry among flowering plants, despite the fact that this mechanism is used by both a terrestrial species and an aquatic one. Genetic and fossil evidence for the close relationship between these unique and threatened organisms indicate that carnivory evolved from a common ancestor within this caryophyllid clade at least 65 million years ago.” The wonderful thing here is that the study confirms Darwin’s own hypothesis about the origin of Dionaea. See, evolutionary biology can make testable predictions!