Saturday, June 15, 2013

Preying Plants

Today was our free Saturday to do whatever our heart desired. A handful of us decided that Bologna sounded interesting, so we boarded our train early in the morning to seek out the mysterious city of Bologna. Since our train was at 7:45, we were pleased to see the Tuscan sunrise giving light to a brand new beautiful day. We made our trek down hill to the local train stop to a very punctual train. After our comical excursion, we set foot in Bologna. Our first mission was to find the University Garden, which houses many trees, greenhouses, cacti, flowers, and most interestingly enough carnivorous plants. You heard me, carnivorous PLANTS. After a few pit stops, we finally make it to our destination (an hour and a half later) to enjoy these wonderful plants. 

We first walked up to a building belonging to the university, and right beside it were vast arrays of vivacious plants. The garden practically covered every spectrum of the color wheel, and then some. We entered under the shade of two large trees and continued to explore anything our eyes could absorb. I came up to a cylindrical cage stuffed with plants of various types. I thought to myself, "Something's up here, why are these caged and the others aren't?" Lo and behold there's a sign (I've learned s
igns here are more important than you can imagine). After reading the sign I am now aware that every plant caged inside are in fact carnivorous. I learned that these plants eat solely for nutrition, as opposed to us who eat mostly for energy. There was one in particular that piqued my interest. The Venus Flytrap.
This plant is only one of two that uses an active snap trap mechanism. Most of the other plants had large openings with sticky fibers trapping insects to their ultimate doom. But the Venus flytrap is much more advanced than most other plants. I learned that the Venus fly trap has minuscule hairs, simply called trigger hairs that only react to touch. Therefore, the plant will not close because of natural elements, but it will snap shut once the trigger hairs are stimulated. This shutting action is called thigmonasty, once the plant has trapped its prey the thigmonasty only intensifies once it senses a struggling insect. Okay enough technical terms, these plants are just downright interesting. Eventually I moved on to see the rest of the garden. After a relaxing stroll, we decided we needed to feed our snap trap mechanisms and find a local ristorante to fuel up for the rest of the day. I am so grateful to have experienced this spontaneous trip to Bologna. Not only did we visit a very interesting garden, but we also made our way around to the piazza, had gelato outside with live music, and even climbed to the Church of San Luca. Overall, today's experience taught me much more than a textbook could ever attempt.

-Jenna Rios

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