Worm-Eating Plant Found—Kills via Underground Leaves
With few food options, plant evolved "fascinating" alternative, scientist says.
Flowering plants of the genus Philcoxia are the only known plants with the "awkward" feature of subterranean leaves, said Rafael Oliveira, a plant biologist at the State University of Campinas in Brazil.
Oliveira's new research sheds new light on the oddity, showing that the leaves act as traps for tiny roundworms, or nematodes. This worm food is vital for the plant's survival in the nutrient-deprived savannas of central Brazil.
Plants may seem "boring for some people, because they don't move or actively hunt for their food," Oliveira said by email.
But "they have evolved a number of fascinating solutions to solve common problems, such as the lack of readily available nutrients or water."
(Related: "Plants Can Recognize, Communicate With Relatives, Studies Find.")
Oliveira and colleagues had suspected that Philcoxia