Secrets of the Venus Flytrap

Harvard University researchers have analyzed how a Venus flytrap slams its leaves closed on its prey in just one-tenth of a second. To study the mechanism, professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan painted the leaves with ultraviolet fluorescent dots and then filmed the plant under black light using high-speed video.

 Gazette Daily 2005 01 Photos 26-Flytrap 2Mahadevan likened the Venus flytrap's hinged leaves to a plastic lid that is bowed in one direction and then suddenly pops the other way. While waiting for prey, the plant's leaves are bowed outward, opening the hinged trap. When an insect touches the hairy triggers located inside of the trap, the plant moves water in the leaves, changing their curvature and suddenly snapping them closed.

"It is a relatively simple mechanism, but the plant is actively controlling it," Mahadevan said.