Yes, the title of this piece is misleading, but it could be the next step in Plantae Dentistry. Let’s start from the beginning, and explain from there.
Dionaea Muscipula, commonly known as the Venus Flytrap, is a popular plant, well known for its carnivorous habits. It triggers to shut when a fly (or other insect) steps inside of its “mouth,” and its long hairlike protrusions, or cilia, form a cage to trap the fly in, where it is digested in the mouth. Scientists alternate between calling this digestion process the “coolest thing ever” and the “grossest thing ever.”
These plants are usually only found naturally in North and South Carolina, but a group of particularly large (read: old) plants have navigated to Florida, which should come as no surprise to those knowledgeable about migration as it relates to Florida.
Much like in humans, these “cilia,” like our teeth, can fall out with old age. So, a group of humane plant dentists are trying to help these traps out, by pasting in plant dentures. We spoke to one of these dentists, Martha Green, DDS.
“We originally decided to do this to reduce the fly population, but we did eventually grow attached to the plants; we wanted to help them.”
The invasive fly species in question, the Moroccan Glue Fly, had indeed become a problem; they were out of hand, and people didn’t want to swat them for fear of getting their hand glued to whatever surface the fly landed on, as Glue Flies have a deposit of a super sticky substance in their abdomen that has a similar strength to conventional, household super glue. Green had this to say about the Glue Flies:
“This is some really sticky stuff. Our Stickometers measure the hold at a 6; this may not sound high, but you know that scene from A Christmas Story? That’s a 5.7.”
The one major issue with this dental work is the nature of the plants “mouths”: They don’t grip on to dentures well (ironic, since they are designed to be sticky), and don’t respond to normal glues or pastes. The only thing that works seems to be the glue from, you guessed it, the Moroccan Glue Fly, slowly being eradicated by the plants.
The plants, unfortunately, are eating their way to their deaths, when they run out of flies to keep the false teeth pasted in. Scientists are trying to find a synthetic substitute before time runs out, but its a sticky situation. They are also trying to train the plants to eat Green Bit Flies instead (using experimental technology, an advanced version of plant mind control device “The Moss Boss”), to conserve the sticky fly resources, but the Flytraps haven’t really been chomping at the Bit yet.