The most famous carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap, is a pretty weird specimen. Possessing no nervous system, muscles, or tendons, they are able to trap their meals in fang-like mouths. Once their prey is enclosed by their jaws, they start to eat them, using digestive acids and enzymes to dissolve the insect into nutrient soup. Isn’t nature beautiful!
A new study wanted to investigate if these wonderful plants can produce magnetic fields, with this phenomenon only being recorded in two other plant species: single-cell algae and a bean plant. The presence of this force has been well studied in animals such as humans, honey bees, dolphins, birds, rats, newts, and more. According to the laws of electromagnetism, anything with an electrical current also generates a magnetic field. Plants have been shown to possess this ability numerous amount of times, though the biomagnetic signals they release are very weak, making them extremely difficult to measure.
A new study has overcome this issue by using a cloud of atoms that are highly sensitive to magnetic fields, meaning even a small amount of activity would be picked up by the sensors. Lead author Anne Fabricant and her team tracked the behavior of Venus flytraps in different stages of its life cycle and under different conditions. The strength of the magnetic field produced was found to be more than a million times weaker than the Earth’s, strongest at the time of snapping the plant’s mouth shut. The heat was also able to stimulate the organism, creating an even stronger field similar to when nerve impulses are generated in animals.
Native to the east coast, Venus flytraps are listed as a vulnerable species according to the National Wildlife Federation, with it actually being a felony offense to remove these plants from the wild. Understanding more about how magnetic fields operate within this species may give us clues on how we can help them more easily survive. This also reigns true for all plants, as understanding these hidden talents may allow us to help plants survive and flourish further, promoting better crop growth to feed an increasing world population.
Source study: Scientific Reports – Action potentials induce biomagnetic fields in carnivorous Venus flytrap plants