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October 31, 2020
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New England Carnivorous Plant Society

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"The mission of the New England Carnivorous Plant Society shall be to share, to gain knowledge of, and to achieve expertise in all phases of growing, education, appreciation, and conservation of carnivorous plants in both culture and in native habitats."

AnnouncementsWhat's New
NECPS November meeting

The November meeting of the NECPS will be held on November 7th at 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM at Briggs Nursery, North Attleboro, MA (Directions).

Plans are to have a post show discussion following our 17th Annual Carnivorous Plant Show and a presentation on Pinguicula give by Mike Graziano. A silent auction is also being planned.

All Dues Renewals Postponed to January 2021

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic it has been one crazy year! We have only been able to hold just 2 meetings so far this year! And we may not be able to hold our popular Annual Fall Show this year and may have to come up with some kind of "Virtual Show".

It is because of this that NECPS President Dave Sackett has announced that there will be No Membership Dues required for 2020. All currently active NECPS Members will have their memberships extended into 2021.

Thanks Dave for making this important decision and for keeping the NECPS strong throughout these difficult times!

Why Scientists Made Venus Flytraps That Glow

Provoking a Venus flytrap takes a certain amount of finesse. If you brush just one of the trigger hairs inside of its leaves, the plant likely won't react. But if you trigger it again quickly enough, it will spring into action, swinging its famous mouth shut.

Waiting for a double trip probably keeps the plant from wasting energy on raindrops or other things that aren't nutritious flies. But despite centuries of interest in the species, no one was quite certain how the plants remember the first trigger in order to act on a second.

In a paper published last week in Nature Plants, researchers reported they had found the cause: calcium ions. By inducing the flytraps to glow when calcium entered their cells, a team of scientists was able to show how the ions build up as the hairs are triggered, eventually causing the snap.

Calcium is used for conveying information between cells in many different life-forms, said Mitsuyasu Hasebe, the leader of the lab at the National Institute for Basic Biology in Okazaki, Japan, where the research was done. The molecule is normally "scarce in the cell, but abundant out of it," he said, making it easy for cells to recognize and react to changes in concentration.

In 1988, a pair of plant scientists hypothesized that two overlapping rushes of calcium ions might spur the Venus flytrap to close, but had no way to test their idea. More recently, another group of researchers - including Rainer Hedrich, who participated in the new paper - solved part of the puzzle, showing that electrical signals tell the flytrap when its trigger hairs have been pressed. They also speculated that calcium helps the plant keep track.

Read the Full Article Here

Researchers probe memory of the Venus flytrap

The carnivorous plant Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) captures and digests small animals and absorbs nutrients with its characteristic insectivorous leaves. Six sensory hairs on the inner surface of each leaf sense a visiting prey and cause the trap to close. A single contact event with a sensory hair is not sufficient, but a second contact within 30 seconds will induce the trap to close quickly and ensnare the unlucky prey. Thus, Venus flytraps store the memory of the first stimulus for about 30 seconds. But how does a plant memorize anything when it has no brain or nervous system?

In 1988, Dr. Dieter Hodick and Dr. Andreas Sievers from the Botanical Institute at the University of Bonn, Germany speculated that changes in calcium ions might be involved in the memory of the Venus flytrap. However, lacking the technological means to measure calcium concentrations without damaging the cells, they were unable to explore this possibility.

Now, in a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr. Hiraku Suda and Professor Mitsuyasu Hasebe of the National Institute for Basic Biology (NIBB) in Okazaki, Japan, together with their colleagues, have succeeded in visualizing intracellular calcium concentrations in the Venus flytrap and have demonstrated that its short-term memory can indeed be explained by changes in calcium concentration.

The research team first established a genetic transformation method for the Venus flytrap. They then introduced the gene encoding the intracellular calcium sensor protein GCaMP6, which emits green fluorescence when bound to calcium, into the insectivorous plant, allowing them to visualize changes in intracellular calcium concentrations for the first time.

To visualize the flytrap's memory mechanism, Dr. Hasebe and his colleagues spliced a special type of gene into the plant. This gene, widely used in biology, produces a protein that turns fluorescent green when it binds to a target - in this case, a calcium ion.

Read the Full Article Here

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Have an idea for a presentation or demonstration? If there is a meeting or other event that the NECPS will be participating in, or some other carnivorous plant related news item that you would like to share? Please forward the information to the Webmaster so that it can be included here.

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Membership Dues are payable at or before the January meeting.

How the Venus Flytrap 'Remembers' When It Captures Prey

Scientists are continuing to tease out the mechanisms by which the Venus flytrap can tell when it has captured a tasty insect as prey as opposed to an inedible object (or just a false alarm). There is evidence that the carnivorous plant has something akin to a short-term "memory," and a team of Japanese scientists has found evidence that the mechanism for this memory lies in changes in calcium concentrations in its leaves, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nature Plants.

The Venus flytrap attracts its prey with a pleasing fruity scent. When an insect lands on a leaf, it stimulates the highly sensitive trigger hairs that line the leaf. When the pressure becomes strong enough to bend those hairs, the plant will snap its leaves shut and trap the insect inside. Long cilia grab and hold the insect in place, much like fingers, as the plant begins to secrete digestive juices. The insect is digested slowly over five to 12 days, after which the trap reopens, releasing the dried-out husk of the insect into the wind.

But the Venus flytrap doesn't close all the way and produce digestive enzymes to consume the prey until the hairs are triggered three more times (for a total of five stimuli). The German scientists likened this behavior to performing a rudimentary cost-to-benefit analysis, in which the number of triggering stimuli help the Venus flytrap determine the size and nutritional content of any potential prey struggling in its maw and whether it's worth the effort. If not, the trap will release whatever has been caught within 12 hours or so. (Another means by which the Venus flytrap tells the difference between an inedible object and actual prey is a special chitin receptor. Most insects have a chitin exoskeleton, so the plant will produce even more digestive enzymes in response to the presence of chitin.)

The implication is that the Venus flytrap must have some sort of short-term memory mechanism in order for that to work, since it has to "remember" the first stimulation long enough for the second stimulation to register. Past research has posited that shifts in the concentrations of calcium ions play a role, although the lack of any means to measure those concentrations, without damaging the leaf cells, prevented scientists from testing that theory.

That's where this latest study comes in. The Japanese team figured out how to introduce a gene for a calcium sensor protein called GCaMP6, which glows green whenever it binds to calcium. That green fluorescence allowed the team to visually track the changes in calcium concentrations in response to stimulating the plant's sensitive hairs with a needle.

Read the Full Article Here

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