Author Archives: Abdul Wahab

Poisonous Plants

poisonous-plantsPlants are an important part of nature. They are everywhere in the world and makes our planet green. We all know that they are good for us because they provide us food, wood, and the precious oxygen. But, there are many species of plants that also carry poisons. These poisons may cause itching, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. The poisonous plants play an important role in nature. Let’s dig in deep!

Why Plants Carry Poison?

The first question that everyone will probably ask about the poisonous plants is that, why plants carry poison with them? Because we know plants as good creatures that provide a primary food source to animals, so why they will want to harm the animals? There are some reasons behind it, let’s discuss them.

The primary reason to carry the poison is the protection from herbivores. Herbivores (plant eaters) consume the plants to survive. Suppose if some herbivores start to eat one plant together, they may consume the whole plants. As a result, the plant will die completely. So, some plants have evolved to carry poison in them with varying amount of poison to protect them against herbivory when they are consumed more than average.
herbivory

Some plants carry permanent poison to protect themselves from herbivores. For examples, leaves of mangrove tree are poisonous to many herbivores. But, few herbivores are able to digest these poisonous leaves, e.g. sloths. As a result, few species can eat these leaves which helps mangrove to survive while providing food to limited herbivores.

sloth

Sloth is hanging on a mangrove tree

Uses of Poisonous Plants

Poisons of the plants are of course harmful to animals and humans. But, they are also used by humans in the preparation of some medicines and in some other applications. For example, people have used the poison of ‘Buckeye’ for catching fishes. ‘Digitalis’ plant has provided the first remedy for cardiac, which helped in strengthening the heartbeat.

The Most Poisonous Plants on Earth

Here are some of the plants that are considered most poisonous in the world.

1. Aconitum napellus

It is a beautiful plant with purple color. When eaten it may cause numbness, vomiting and also death. In 2014, BBC reported that a 33 years old gardener died due to touching (or eating) this plant.
Aconitum-napellus

2. Castor Bean

When this plant is eaten, it may cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, and death in few days (if the victim is not treated well).
castor-bean

3. Water Hemlock

It is also a beautiful plant with small white-colored flowers. This plant may cause seizures if eaten. It is also the common poisonous plant in UK and US.
water-hemlock

Fun Facts

  • Leaves of the apple tree and its seeds contain ‘cyanide’; a very poisonous chemical.
  • Unripen potatoes are also poisonous. They may cause vomiting.
  • Some poisonous plants can cause very intense itching when touched, e.g. Poison Ivy.

 

Carnivorous Plants

carnivorous-plantYou are probably familiar with the fact that animals like lions, cats, and dogs eat meat as a food source to survive. But, you may be unaware of the fact that many species of plants also eat meat as their food source. These plants are called carnivorous plants that rely on smaller animals such as insects and frogs as their food source.

Why do Plants Eat the Meat?

Carnivorous plants are mostly found in the places where the soil is poor in minerals. So, they can’t get necessary minerals with the help of their roots. They had to find a way to get rich food source. For this, these plants have evolved to catch and digest the small creatures like bees, flies, and smaller frogs.

How do They Catch the Bugs?

There are about 630 known species of the carnivorous plants around the Earth. These species have evolved 5 different types trapping mechanisms to catch their prey. Each species of these plants use anyone trapping mechanism. These trapping mechanisms are:

1. Pitfall traps

Plants that use this trap have funnel-shaped slippery leaves. When a bug lands on their leaves, it just slides to the bottom of the leaf and falls into their digestive enzymes pool where they are digested. “Heliamphora chimantensis” is the species of plants that use this trapping mechanism.

Heliamphora-chimantensis

Heliamphora Chimantensis

2. Flypaper traps

In this trap, plants use special glue on their leaves that is secreted by their glands. When bugs sit on their leaves, they are stuck on it and can’t fly away. “Drosera capensis” uses this trapping mechanism.

drosera-capensis

Drosera Capensis

3. Snap traps

In this trap, plants catch their prey with their mouth shaped leaves whose outer edge is covered with spiky hairs. When a bug lands on its leaf, it senses its movement and shuts instantly. “Venus Flytrap” uses this kind of trap to catch bugs.

venus-flytrap

Venus Flytrap

4. Bladder traps

The plants that use this trap lives in the water. They just suck-in the insects from the water in their bladder for digestion. “Utricularia vulgaris” uses this kind of trap.

Utricularia-vulgaris

Utricularia Vulgaris

5. Lobsters-pot traps

It is the chamber in the plants which is easy for the bugs to enter but very difficult to go outside. Also, it has inward pointing bristles which further makes the outside route more difficult. “Genlisea violacea” uses this kind of trap.

Genlisea-violacea

Genlisea Violacea

How Much Bigger They Can Grow?

Don’t be afraid! Carnivorous plants mostly grow up to 12 inches (1 foot) long, so they are unlikely to trap people and bigger animals. However, some of the species can grow up to about 3 three feet long.

Fun Facts

  • Venus flytrap plants are very famous. Probably due to their jaw shaped leaves that catch the bugs.
  • Carnivorous plants grow in the US, more than any other country.
  • Curious people around the World also grow carnivorous plants in their gardens (JUST FOR FUN!).

Sulfur

sulfur-symbol

  • Symbol: S
  • Atomic Number: 16
  • Atomic Weight: 32
  • Melting Point: 115 °C (239 °F)
  • Boiling Point:6 °C (832 °F)
  • Discovered by: Known since ancient times.

Sulfur (also spelled as Sulphur) is a chemical element in the periodic table having the atomic number of 16. It is mostly known for causing very bad smells, but in reality, the pure sulfur is odorless nonmetal element. The smells that irritate us are actually the compounds of sulfur, e.g. Hydrogen Sulfide smells like rotten eggs.
sulfur-element

Characteristics and Properties

  • Sulfur is yellow colored nonmetal solid.
  • It has 30 allotropes (Allotropes are made of the same element, but their atoms are organized differently).
  • Sulfur can’t be dissolved in the water. However, it can be dissolved in organic liquids.

Uses

Sulfur is a widely used element across the world. Some of its uses are:

  • Sulfur is used to make sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is a strong acid which is used in your car batteries. But, it has many other industrial applications too.
  • It is used for water processing, oil refining, and making fertilizers.
  • It is used for making gunpowder that is used in bullets, and hobby rockets.

Where is it found?

Sulfur is the 10th most abundant element in the universe, and 17th most abundant in Earth’s crust. Sulfur is found in many places around the world. The places where the sulfur is likely found are volcanic sites, natural geysers, hydro-thermal vents, and hot water springs. Sulfur is found in both pure forms and in minerals. Some minerals of sulfur are pyrite, barite, and gypsum.
pyrite-barite-gypsum

The largest sulfur producing country is China. Other countries that also produce sulfur are US, Canada, and Russia.

Discovery

Sulfur is available in its pure form in nature, so ancient people had known about the sulfur. Chinese had known the reactivity and uses of sulfur in medicines and black gunpowder.  They used black gunpowder in fireworks. Sulfur was considered as a compound rather than an element. It was proved by Antoine Lavoisier in 1777 that sulfur is an element.

Fun Facts

  • The 8th most abundant element in our bodies is sulfur.
  • Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas released mostly by power plants and factories. When this gas mixes with moisture in the atmosphere it causes acid rain.
  • When the sulfur melts, it is converted into a red color

Snake

Snakes are flexible reptile; they have a long body much like a rope. They are feared by the majority of the people around the world. However, some people love to stay with snakes and keep them as a pet. There are about 3,000 different species of snakes found across all over the world. Majority of the snakes are non-venomous, only 375 species of snakes carry poison to kill their prey.

How do they look like?

snake
Snakes are similar in shape to a rope. But, their body is muscular which gives a very good degree of freedom to move and turn in any direction. Their body length varies from 10 cm (4 inches) to 9 meters (30 feet). They have a wide range of colors depending on the location where they live. Poisonous snakes mostly have bright colors, whereas rest of the snakes have dull colors.

Diet

Snakes are carnivores (meat eater). They hunt down smaller animals and swallow them as a whole. They have a very slow metabolism. Once they eat food it takes a day or more to digest it. Due to this reason, they don’t come outside for hunting regularly. They mostly eat frogs, rodents, birds, and other small animals.

Habitat

Snakes are the creatures that are found on every continent of the Earth except the Antarctica. Each continent has different species of snakes depending on their climate and food availability. Snakes are cold blooded animals, and avoid to live in very cold areas e.g. Antarctica and Iceland. They are found in jungles, deserts, water, and undergrounds.
snake-habitat

Conservation Status

Some species of the snakes are declared as endangered. St. Lucia racer is a species of the snakes whose number has decreased below 100.

Fun Facts

  • Cobra snake can live for months without eating any food.

    cobra-snake

    Cobra

  • Sometimes eating a live animal proved to be disastrous for snakes, they just explode after eating. Scientists are still unaware of this fact.
  • Some sea snakes have the ability to breathe partially through their skin. It helps them to stay underwater for a long period of time.

Shark

Sharks are the largest and sharp predators that live all around the oceans. They have been dwelling in the ocean for more than 2 million years. There are 465 different species of sharks that live in the oceans. The biggest species of the sharks is called great white shark. A fully grown shark sits on the top of the ocean’s food chain. They have very few predators to avoid, which are others sharks and orca whales.

What Do They Look Like?

shark
Great white shark is the biggest of all the other sharks. They grow about 20 feet in length and can weigh as much as 4000 pounds. Their underbellies are light colored and their top is dark colored. This color difference gives them an excellent camouflage. When sharks are seen from above, their dark color blends with the dark floor of the ocean. When seen from below their light color blends with the sky. Great white sharks are equipped with 3 fins, which are dorsal fin, pectoral fins, and caudal fins.

Diet

Sharks are carnivore fishes; they eat other fishes for their diet. Sharks are very good hunters. They have a sense of smell that can detect a drop of blood from miles away. They have very sharp triangular shapes teeth arranged in 7 rows. A fully grown shark mostly eats sea lions, seals, and other sea mammals. They don’t have a tongue for tasting. Instead, their whole mouth can taste the food. Sharks can lose a couple of teeth in hunting a prey. But, the new teeth are grown very fast.

Habitat

Sharks prefer to live in cold waters in the oceans. They are mostly found close to the shores where the ocean water is cold. They are commonly live down to a depth of 2000 meters. However, they can go beyond this depth.
shark-habitat

Conservation Status

Great white sharks are considered as endangered species around some parts of oceans. Their population has reduced due to over-hunting.

Facts

  • Sharks need a constant water flow over their gills to extract oxygen for respiration. They need to constantly move with their mouth open. Even, they need to move in the ocean during sleep otherwise, they may drown.
  • Bull shark has the ability to live in both fresh water and ocean.
  • A great white shark grows about 50,000 teeth in its life time. They lose a couple of teeth in every hunt and regrow them.