Meet the speedsters of the plant world

Science News

May 16, 2018

Ingenious botanical mechanisms let plants fling, snap and burst

"All plants grow, a rather slow form of motion, but many can also move rapidly," writes Science News. "The snapping jaws of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) are the most famous example...

"One way of understanding this elastic motion is to look at a popular children’s toy, says Zi Chen, an engineer at Dartmouth who also studies the flytrap. Rubber poppers are little rubber hemispheres that can be inverted. Like a compressed spring, the inverted toys have a lot of potential energy. The poppers convert that energy into kinetic energy as they revert to their original shape, launching several feet into the air. Similarly, potential energy from the tension of the outer surfaces against the inner surfaces of a flytrap’s leaves is converted to kinetic energy, allowing the trap to slam shut in about a tenth of a second."

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