Root Physiology: from Gene to Function

Volume 4 of the series Plant Ecophysiology pp 127-140

The roots of carnivorous plants

  • Wolfram AdlassnigAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Conservation Biology, University of Vienna
  • , Marianne PeroutkaAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Conservation Biology, University of Vienna
  • , Hans LambersAffiliated withSchool of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia
  • , Irene K. LichtscheidlAffiliated withInstitute of Ecology and Conservation Biology, University of Vienna Email author 

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Carnivorous plants may benefit from animal-derived nutrients to supplement minerals from the soil. Therefore, the role and importance of their roots is a matter of debate. Aquatic carnivorous species lack roots completely, and many hygrophytic and epiphytic carnivorous species only have a weakly developed root system. In xerophytes, however, large, extended and/or deep-reaching roots and sub-soil shoots develop. Roots develop also in carnivorous plants in other habitats that are hostile, due to flooding, salinity or heavy metal occurance. Information about the structure and functioning of roots of carnivorous plants is limited, but this knowledge is essential for a sound understanding of the plants’ physiology and ecology. Here we compile and summarise available information on:
  1. (1)

    The morphology of the roots.

  2. (2)

    The root functions that are taken over by stems and leaves in species without roots or with poorly developed root systems; anchoring and storage occur by specialized chlorophyll-less stems; water and nutrients are taken up by the trap leaves.

  3. (3)

    The contribution of the roots to the nutrient supply of the plants; this varies considerably amongst the few investigated species. We compare nutrient uptake by the roots with the acquisition of nutrients via the traps.

  4. (4)

    The ability of the roots of some carnivorous species to tolerate stressful conditions in their habitats; e.g., lack of oxygen, saline conditions, heavy metals in the soil, heat during bushfires, drought, and]Key words

carnivorous plants insectivorous plants morphology nutrition root