Plants Behaving Badly

Plants Behaving Badly

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 10:00pm - 11:00pm

Photo: Plant from Plants Behaving Badly

Credit: Courtesy of ©Terra Mater/Parthenon Entertainment_Steve Nicholls

Examine the extraordinary behavior of carnivorous plants, which have been a feature of many a sci-fi film over the years.

The reality turns out to be far stranger than the fiction. See why in Plants Behaving Badly, a two-part series arings Wednesdays May 3 and May 10, 2017 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

When carnivorous plants were first discovered, they caused uproar in the scientific world. The greatest botanist of the 18th century, Carl Linnaeus, pronounced the idea that they ate insects blasphemous, that it went against the way God had ordered the world. More than a century later, another great naturalist, Charles Darwin, would prove him wrong. Darwin worked on many kinds of carnivorous plants and what he discovered both astounded and frightened him. Here were plants that behaved more like animals! Today we are still finding new surprises in the world of carnivorous plants. 

Episode 1: Murder and Mayhem (Premieres Wednesday, May 3) Charles Darwin was fascinated by the extraordinary behavior of carnivorous plants, and we now know that he barely knew the half of it. Recently scientists have shown that many more plants are carnivorous than we ever thought. Welcome to the world of killer tomatoes and murderous potatoes.

But even the more obvious carnivorous plants — sundews, flytraps and pitchers — are revealing new behavior. Carnivorous plants have featured in many sci-fi films over the years, but the reality turns out to be far stranger than the fiction.

Episode 2: Sex and Lies (Premieres Wednesday, May 10)  Darwin’s book "On the Origin of Species" shook the scientific world and far beyond. Yet it was his next book, devoted entirely to orchids, which filled in gaps and firmed up his revolutionary ideas. Orchids have an ethereal beauty, whether growing hundreds of feet up in a misty rainforest or along the verges of busy suburban roads. But their exotic flowers are shaped for just one purpose: to draw in pollinators.