Triantha occidentalis, the western false asphodel, is a species of carnivorous flowering plant in the genus Triantha from the family Tofieldiaceae within the order of the Alismatales. It is found in the Pacific Northwest.[2] It was recognised as a carnivorous plant in 2021, a rare occurrence within the Monocot clade.[3]

Triantha occidentalis
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Alismatales
Family: Tofieldiaceae
Genus: Triantha
T. occidentalis
Binomial name
Triantha occidentalis
  • Asphodeliris occidentalis (S.Watson) Kuntze
  • Tofieldia glutinosa subsp. occidentalis (S.Watson) C.L.Hitchc.
  • Tofieldia glutinosa var. occidentalis (S.Watson) C.L.Hitchc.
  • Tofieldia occidentalis S.Watson

Botanical history edit

Triantha occidentalis was described by Sereno Watson in 1879 as Tofieldia occidentalis, and reassigned to Triantha by R. R. Gates in 1918.[4][5] The carnivorous behavior of the plant was discovered in 2021 by a group of scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[6][7]

Range edit

The native range of Triantha occidentalis is from Southeast Alaska to Central California. The range includes the US states of Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.[1]

Carnivory edit

Triantha occidentalis is a carnivorous plant; the flower stems are covered in a sticky substance, and have tiny hairs that produce a digestive enzyme, a phosphatase. The sticky substance is able to trap small insects, which are digested by the enzyme from the hairs, allowing the plant to absorb their nutrients.[8][6] Other carnivorous plants have insect traps well away from flowers, in positions where pollinating insect such as bees and butterflies are not affected; T. occidentalis's sticky flower stems are only able to trap smaller insects such as fruit flies.[6][9] It was not suspected that T. occidentalis, which grows near urban centers, was carnivorous until it was found to have a genetic deletion sometimes seen in carnivorous plants, prompting investigation. The plant is, as of 2021, the only one known to trap insects this unsuspected way, but it has been suggested that there may be more.[8][9]

Subspecies edit

The following subspecies are accepted:[1]

  • Triantha occidentalis subsp. brevistyla (C.L.Hitchc.) Packer
  • Triantha occidentalis subsp. montana (C.L.Hitchc.) Packer
  • Triantha occidentalis subsp. occidentalis

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Triantha occidentalis (S.Watson) R.R.Gates". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Archived from the original on 9 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  2. ^ "Triantha occidentalis in Flora of North America @". Archived from the original on 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  3. ^ Qianshi Lin, Sean W. Graham: A new carnivorous plant lineage (Triantha) with a unique sticky inflorescence trap. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) Vol. 118, No. 333, 9. August 2021.
  4. ^ "Triantha occidentalis (S.Watson) R.R.Gates". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Archived from the original on 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  5. ^ "Triantha occidentalis (S. Watson) R.R. Gates". Tropicos. Archived from the original on 2021-08-10. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  6. ^ a b c Lin, Qianshi; Ané, Cécile; Givnish, Thomas J.; Graham, Sean W. (2021-08-17). "A new carnivorous plant lineage (Triantha) with a unique sticky-inflorescence trap". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 118 (33): e2022724118. Bibcode:2021PNAS..11822724L. doi:10.1073/pnas.2022724118. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 8379919. PMID 34373325.
  7. ^ Lauren M. Johnson (10 August 2021). "An insect eating plant has been identified on North America's Pacific coast for the first time in 20 years". CNN. Retrieved 2021-08-11.
  8. ^ a b Greenfieldboyce, Nell (August 9, 2021). "This Sweet White Flower Is Actually A Sneaky Carnivore, Scientists Discover". All Things Considered. Archived from the original on 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  9. ^ a b Elbein, Asher (2021-08-09). "This Flower Hides a Secret: It's Actually a Carnivore". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2021-08-10. Retrieved 2021-08-10.