From Alaska to California, and inland to Montana, Triantha occidentalis can be found in wetlands and bogs. It produces tall blooming stems with sticky hairs that attract small insects like gnats and midges throughout the summer. The scientists discovered that the plant gets more than half of its nitrogen from these ensnared insects, which is a pleasant bonus in its nutrient-deficient environment.
This is the 12th documented separate development of carnivory in the plant world, and it’s the first time it’s been discovered in the Alismatales order, which includes mostly aquatic flowering plants. It’s also only the fourth known case of carnivory in monocots, one of the primary categories of flowering plants.
Triantha surroundings seems to be suited to carnivory as well. For plants, the carnivorous lifestyle is so energy-intensive that plenty of water and light appear to be required for it to evolve. Lin fed fruit flies labelled with the stable isotope nitrogen-15 to Triantha in field trials, allowing him to trace the nutrient as it entered the plant. Ané assisted Lin in analysing the results of the experiments.