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Source: Carolyn Ferguson, 785-532-3166, ferg@k-state.edu
Website: http://cstd.k-state.edu/Theatre/

News release prepared by: Emily Vietti, 785-532-2535, evietti@k-state.edu

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010

CARNIVOROUS PLANTS MAKE APPEARANCE IN 'LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS' AND AT CAMPUS HERBARIUM

MANHATTAN -- When the Kansas State University Theatre's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" hits McCain Auditorium Nov. 11-14, the show will feature the character Audrey II, a carnivorous plant with an insatiable appetite for people.

But Audrey II isn't the only carnivorous plant on campus, and McCain Auditorium isn't the only place to find such hungry vegetation.

The K-State Herbarium, on the third floor of Bushnell Hall, has several specimens of different species of carnivorous and insectivorous plants. From pitcher plants to the more familiar Venus flytraps, the herbarium has specimens dating as far back as the 1800s.

Carnivorous plants are interesting because they have evolved several times, according to Carolyn Ferguson, K-State associate professor of biology and curator of the herbarium.

"These plants usually grow in nutrient-poor areas, like acidic bogs," said Ferguson. "They trap insects to draw nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous from them."

The largest pitcher plants can grow to nearly a foot in diameter and can trap small rodents. There are no carnivorous plants nearly that large in Kansas; however, the herbarium does have a specimen of an insectivorous, aquatic plant that was collected from Crawford County.

"The type of plant that was found in Kansas has a bladder trap," said Ferguson. "It forms a small, bulbous bladder with a flap-like door, and then it creates a vacuum that it uses to trap aquatic insects or crustaceans inside."

The carnivorous plant specimens make up just a small part of the herbarium's nearly 200,000 specimens. The herbarium is open to the public. Appointments, which are encouraged, can be scheduled by contacting herbarium@k-state.edu. The herbarium also has digitized its entire collection of North American plants, a process that took nearly five years. The collection can be found online at http://biodis.k-state.edu/.

More information on K-State's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" is available at http://cstd.k-state.edu/Theatre/.