When we think of parasites, we tend to think of tapeworms within our bodies, or fleas on our pets, or perhaps even wasps that lay eggs inside caterpillars. We almost certainly wouldn’t think of plants engaging in such sinister behaviour – yet the truth is that many plants have highly parasitic lifestyles.
The idea of a plant eating an animal seems like a strange concept. Perhaps it is because it shatters all expectations. Surely plants are supposed to be passive recipients of sunlight and water – not carnivores turning to the flesh of animals for their sustenance. Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish naturalist who devised a system of ordering all living things in the world, refused to believe that plants could be carnivorous, declaring that it went ‘against the order of nature as willed by God.’ He reasoned that so-called carnivorous plants only caught insects by accident.