My stay on the lost islands of Xogulano continues.
I have spent most of my time here without any company. This arrangement suits me, since I find I am soothed and stimulated by my own thoughts, but perturbed by the interruptions of others. However, it was surprisingly pleasant to be visited by a local fisherman. It seems he is one of the few locals who dares to set foot on the islands. Although when he does so, he will only walk and climb in straight lines at right angles, believing this will calm the ‘demon spirits’ of the islands.
Taking this opportunity to gather knowledge, I asked the fisherman exactly how plants and animals manage to survive the frequent complete submerging of the islands. He answered,
“How can this apply to plants?” I asked, but received only an enigmatic smile in response.
I am hoping to be on the islands when submerging occurs, so that I can observe the survival methods of the inhabitants. However, I fear for my safety when they do.
While my fisherman friend was sitting on a rocky outcrop, dangling his line in a small pool, I found this plant growing nearby. I quickly gleaned a hint of its survival strategy – a large tuber makes up the base of the plant, and it has a waxy covering that may well be waterproof. Attempts to cut my way through the surface of the tuber failed. The leaves themselves are sticky, similar to the surface of Nepenthes leaves (the carnivorous pitcher plant). I watched as flies became attached to the leaves, getting tangled in long hairs.
I asked my visitor for information about this bizarre organism, hoping to hear more about its carnivorous habits.
“Not eating flies, doesn’t need to eat flies,” he said, emphatically.
Assuming he was ignorant of the subtleties of plant nutrition, I began to explain how plants make their own food, but still require nitrogen, which can be found in the corpses of insects. However, he impatiently waved my words away, insisting that the plant was not eating the insects, but kidnapping them.
“To make home, to be security,” he explained. I was incredulous. Ants often have a symbiotic relationship with plants, protecting them from being eaten in exchange for a place to live. However, I have never encountered a plant that took ants by force for such a purpose. I expressed my doubt at his theory and he shrugged as if slightly offended, and walked back to his boat following the same awkward angular path back to his boat.
Watching the plant later that evening, I observed that the leaves were not permanent fixtures as one would expect. As it became dusk, they were sucked back inside, taking the ants, still alive but unable to escape, into the plant.
The next morning, when the leaves sprouted anew from the tuber, there was no sign of living or partly digested ants, and I suspect my visitor may be right.