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Thread: Giant Cephalotus follicularis "myth or reality"

  1. #17

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    Thanks for the answer. I'm not sure i agree with the explanation, though. CPs don't get caloric nutrition from their prey, or at least not that i'm aware of. That's why a lot don't even bother to produce the digestive juices themselves. What they do get is mineral nutrition: probably primarily nitrogen compounds. In fact, many of the plants that evolved carnivory live where they have excess sunlight (to make all the sugar they want from the CO2 in the air), and they use their excess sugar as bait to attract the other dietary needs (bugs), which have the much more limited protein (nitrogen), phosphorous, and potassium.

    It's interesting that there seem to be so many "giant" cephalotus. I'm inclined to agree that there are probabably a lot of wild populations with some amount of the "giant" phenotype.

    Boy, sure would be nice if my little ceph would mutate that gene. It's still tiny after more than a year...

    Cheers
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  2. #18

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    Dear D. muscipula:

    While your explanation sheds some truth on how carnivory evolves, one can't speak in general terms. One can't say that all the proteins are derived from the prey. As you may already know, there are several carnivorous plants that can survive wihtout eating insects whatsoever, then where did these plants get their nutrients from? roots? maybe or photosynthesis. We can't talk on absolute terms, everything in life is relative.

    Furthermore, Cephalotus loves to live among the bushes of Southwestern Australia. It is hardly found by themselves, when they do, they turn purple or red and their pitchers get small. If Carnivorous plants rely solely on preys to survive, they would be all dead by now.

    Agustin Franco

  3. #19

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    CPs make their own proteins, just like all other macroscopic lifeforms. Those that don't have digestive proteins (enzymes) are benefitted by the bacteria that live in their pitchers and break down prey, but they use their own synthesized proteins for other processes. What they do get from bugs is nitrogen, which is a major component in protein. All i was saying is that CPs are all autotrophs- they capture energy (sunlight) and use it to make their own tissues, rather than relying on consuming other organisms for their energy source like we do. Their carnivory is for a different reason - they grow in soils where nutrients are very poor, and thus they try to get their nitrogen and other essential nutrients from insects.

    Legumes like beans have a different approach to a similar problem - they have "nitrogen fixing" bacteria living in the roots that take nitrogen from the air and make it into a usable form.

    In either case, the plant makes its own protein, but it gets the nitrogen from other organisms. I don't think carnivorous plants are entirely unable to get nutrients through their roots as normal plants do, which is why some people (Rob Cantley for example) have success using weak fertilizers on certain CPs (nepenthes).

    There's apparently a threshold light intensity beyond which cephalotus take a more compact (smaller pitchers) and water-saving form. I would imagine from what you said that's why they color and form smaller pitchers in extreme light conditions. It makes more sense to me than looking at it the other way (that the pitchers get bigger in the shade). I guess that's probably the answer to my question, but i still wonder if the plant isn't faster growing (more robust) under the high light conditions, even if the pitchers aren't as big. I'd like mine to produce more crowns, so if it will be more robust under high light, i'd give it that.
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  4. #20

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    There is good research done by Richard Davion in Australia dealing with another aspect of Cephalotus size. Richard noted that the CP in Western Australia and South Africa followed areas of mineral serpentine deposits. Experiments concerning "serpentine responsive" CP's have shown the presence of heavy metal cations in habitat favor the presence of a mycorhizal association between the plants root stock and a form of penicillin like fungi that acts as a nutrient transport system. The fungi provide the plant with nitrogen in exchange for the plants sugars. The results of an experimental fertilizer containing these cations in conjunction with a high cellulose medium produced dramatic (although unconfirmed by me) pitcher formation in terms of size and number. The high cellulose tricks the plant into attempting to produce pitchers to compensate for the low nutrients in the substrate, and the nitrogen for growth is made available to the plant via the mycorhizae. After treating the substrate with the fertilizer the fungi begins to establish and grow. Once visable mycorhizae appear, usually in 20-40 days with temps between 22-28 c (71-82F) the growth process begins to accelerate, and the plant utilizes this "nitrogen draw-down" similar to "ericoidal" mycorhizae. (Note that Clostridium fungi also have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen). Nitrogen in peat is largely unavailable to the plant (as lignin and lignoprotein), but the mycorhizae feed the pitchers nitrogen from the humal layer. The reported results stated that three 3 inch pitchers were produced weekly throughout the growing season. The plant from a 2-3 inch root cutting planted in Autumn was mature by the end of the 8 month season.

    I do not discount the possibility of genetic factors since these organic beings are variable, but I feel there is more to this than meets the eye, and such research deserves serious consideration.

    Also, don't be too quick to remove old pitchers until they have browned, as the plant transports those nutrients from old pitchers. Early pitcher removal also removes these nutrients.
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  5. #21
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    Hmmmm. Thanks Tamlin for that information. Now I wonder if Cephalotus would grow better in the same soil derived from the ultrabasic intrusive rocks where Darlingtonia grows near Gasquet. Some time ago I brought home a bucket of that soil with associated herbs and grasses and found that both Darlingtonia and P. macroceras nortensis grew better in that than in any mixes I had tried previously. Unfortunately, I have only a single Cephalotus, so it will take some time before I can perform that experiment.

  6. #22

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    Coincidentally, the winner of the first NECPS OPA (Outstanding Plant Award) this month was a cephalotus, grown from a leaf cutting in three months with incredibly huge pitchers. When i asked Bill what his secret was, he mentioned that when he got it from it's previous owner, he told him that he always puts a bit of the soil from the parent plant in with the babies, because there is a beneficial organism that lives in the soil. I wasn't sure if it was a mycorhizal symbiont at the time, but now it seems pretty certain. I'm wondering where he got that information, because it seems he's known for quite a while.

    Does anybody know where i can buy that special "fertilizer" including the myco spores?
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  7. #23

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    Wow. So what do I have to use on my plants to get growth like that? Can I by it from a nursery or something [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/confused.gif[/img] ?
    Trinity NIghts is Nethaniel, (which you all know by now right?) He is banned.

  8. #24

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    Tamlin Dawnstar has shown that Richard Davion's research gives an explanation on how and why Cephalotus follicularis varies pitcher size. I do believe there is a constant balance between environmental and genetic factors. This should be studied further.

    Yes, D. Muscipula: The plants will be stronger and more robust in the presence of light, no doubt about that.

    Agustin Franco

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