Triantha occidentalis is a long, green-stemmed, and delicately white-flowered flesh-eating (or carnivorous) plant, which is the first new species to be discovered in 20 years.
It’s unassumingly lovely, and a lesson to bugs to never judge a book, or plant, by its cover.
Triantha, as they’re calling it, is a species of false asphodel, and it has UBC researchers all kinds of excited.
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“Carnivorous plants have fascinated people since the Victorian era because they turn the usual order of things on its head: this is a plant eating animals,” said research co-author Dr. Sean Graham, a professor in UBC’s botany department.
What makes this flesh-eating plant so interesting, outside of the fact that it literally sucks the nutrients out of unassuming insects, is that it is a survivor in every sense of the word.
This plant thrives in nutrient-poor areas on the west coast, from California to Alaska.
How does it work? Essentially, a bug will land near one of the plants’ insect-pollinated flowers when the insect becomes trapped. But, it only traps midges and other small insects, so pollinators can still do their job. That makes this plant quite a sustainable flesh eater.
UBC researchers studied specimens growing on Cypress Mountain and Cypress Provincial Park, which are located in North and West Vancouver. They’re still gauging which urban centres this plant may grow in proximity to on the Pacific Coast in the US.
Triantha shares many characteristics present in other carnivorous plants, like the fact that sticky hairs on the flower stalk produce phosphate, which is a digestive enzyme used by other plants to suck out phosphorous from prey.
UBC researchers also suggest that if you want to try and rescue one of these guys to bring them home, they probably won’t do too well outside of their natural environment, so they’re advising you to admire them from afar.
You can find the full UBC study and a dropbox with more photos here.