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A View from David Appell

Venus Flytraps

Venus flytraps are just plain cool – Darwin called the plant “one of the most wonderful in the world.” But how do they snap shut so quickly? Scientists have mostly answered the question in a report in this week’s issue…

  • January 28, 2005

Venus flytraps are just plain cool – Darwin called the plant “one of the most wonderful in the world.” But how do they snap shut so quickly? Scientists have mostly answered the question in a report in this week’s issue of Nature (reported here in the Boston Globe).

In a nice multidisciplinary collaboration, led by Harvard mathematician Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, found that “the plant’s secret lies in the elasticity and curvature of its leaf, which is somewhat analogous to a soft contact lens. When a contact lens is pushed, it first holds steady, and then dramatically flips around.”

There’s still a bit of a mystery about the exact mechanism the flytrap uses to change the pressures within the leaf – it’s probably water pressure. It’s fun when science and technology answer the mundane question on the way to tackling the hard ones.

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