Field of Science

Sheep-eating plant?

Sure. TPP calls BS on a sheep-eating plant.  Puya chiliensis, a member of the pineapple family, is a tough, spiny native of the Andes.  Sheep ain't, so right there the story falters.  How does a plant become adapted to snaring fluffy sheeps with its "razor-sharp" spines so it can receive nutrition from their rotting remains interact so intimately with a recently, in evolutionary terms, introduced species?  Oh, maybe it's really an alpaca predator!  Note also that the spiny part consists of the bracts of the inflorescence, so here's a plant that only flowers every now and then, that uses its reproductive parts to snare sheep (or alpaca?).  Actually when bromeliads flower the apical meristem of that shoot gets used to produce the inflorescence, and after flowering and fruiting, that stem dies, but branches below continue its growth.  It would work better if the plant figured out how to fertilize itself prior to reaching reproductive size/age.  If you haven't looked up some images, this plant is like a yucca with a spiny pineapple atop a flowering stalk.  So this story doesn't work on several levels showing that some people will believe anything.  Maybe once someone found a dead sheep with its fleece entangled in the emerging inflorescence, but sorry, TPP doesn't believe this story for even a second.  And there it is reported (secondarily) with nary a smidgen of disbelief (but it is the HuffPo, so...).  Good grief, what kind of science reporting is that?  It is a cool plant, and if mine flowered after 15 years, TPP wouldn't be sheepish about seeking some publicity, but made up stories wouldn't be part of it.

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