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Plants contain the remarkable ability to adapt to their specific geographic location to better their chance of survival in overly competitive terrain. Each plant contains its own unique abilities to cope, flourish, and out-compete its adversaries for water, light, and nutrients. Some are allelopathic - containing the ability to poison plants around it - like the infamous ragweed or black walnut, while others parasitize larger plants.
None of these adaptations have captivated the masses quite like the mysterious carnivorous plants. These plants resorted to consuming insects to supplement their nutrient needs, as many of them exist in marshy anaerobic soils. As a result, they develop modified leaves to trap insects through trigger hairs causing a head to close, a pool of digestive fluid at the bottom of a slippery surface, or (my personal favorite) extremely sticky trichomes that curl up around the bug and digest it, as is the case with sundews.
Botanists at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew are discovering that they have overlooked upwards from one hundred plants that contain carnivorous properties. There is one on the list that stands out and is one of the most common vegetable crops, likely in your own backyard: tomatoes.
Last month, Farmscape helped Los Feliz resident Abbie Zands create a raised bed vegetable garden in his parkway. We planted a selection of crops with an eye toward keeping the garden tidy – mostly herbs, peppers, and eggplants. In the following weeks, Abbie tended the plot with his wife and two daughters and it became a gathering point for neighborhood residents walking their dogs or returning from the grocery store. The produce was divvied up between Abbie’s family and neighbors, with neighbors sending along photos and recipes showing how they used the produce to be posted on a newly launched Parkway to Table blog.
The story should have ended there, as another example of home vegetable gardens improving lifestyles and building community. But it didn’t.