SITE VISIT: Bugs au Jus

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Science  20 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5431, pp. 1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5431.1175d

Ever wonder whether there's a real-world version of the monster from the Little Shop of Horrors lurking out there, a plant that can devour a person? The Carnivorous Plant FAQ answers this and dozens more questions about the delicate and deadly flora, explaining how bloodthirsty plants trap and digest bugs, where they grow, and how to tend specimens.

Web master and weed scientist Barry Meyers-Rice has cultivated the site since starting it 7 years ago as a listserv. Visitors include red thumbs who want tips on reviving their doomed Venus flytraps, students who want help with their homework, and exotic plant nerds who swap carnivorous plant starters like baseball cards, Meyers-Rice says. Of particular interest to scientists, the site includes a taxonomy of the 600-odd carnivorous plant species. Stars include Nepenthes pitcher plants known to trap rats, birds, and frogs.

The site's highlight is a whimsical photo collection called Galleria Carnivora, which Meyers-Rice unabashedly calls “snotty and pompous.” Don't believe everything you see: The “Chernobyl giant” won't be found in any field guide to exotic plants.

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