To the untrained eye, it’s a harmless plant. It looks pretty and innocent with its dainty lilac flowers. But appearances are deceiving. The philcoxia minensis is a carnivorous plant with an appetite for worms. Unlike the Venus Fly Trap and pitcher plants, this plant takes the subtle approach when it kills its prey. The attack isn’t even visible to the naked eye, as it takes place underground, beneath the soil.
The rare Philcoxia minensis, which is unique to Brazil,uses its underground leaves to lure and trap roundworms. Specifically, the leaves secrete a sticky substance that allows the plant to trap and digest its prey. This is very impressive since the leaves are only 1.5 millimeters wide!
A team of scientists were able to prove that this plant is indeed carnivorous and not just absorbing nutrients from nearby decomposing worms. By injecting the worms with nitrogen isotopes and placing them on the underground leaves, after 24 hours, they found increased nitrogen levels (passed from the worms) in the plant.
It is also believed that the P. minensis may trap passing insects, but further research is needed. It is not clear if the plants attract organisms into their leaves or if prey come in contact with the leaves as they pass by and become trapped.