There are many strange beasts and creatures said to roam the unexplored wilds of our world. These undiscovered animals are called "cryptids," and they are mysterious enough, but it is not only animals that fall under this moniker. Sometimes there are plants or trees that have managed to stay hidden from our view, and some of the most spectacular of these are those that seem to move about and seek out prey.
There have long been accounts of predatory plants, and one of the most frightening of these must be a vampiric, blood-drinking vine said to dwell in the deepest swamps of Nicaragua. The vine is referred to by the natives as “The Devil’s Snare,” and is described as being rather like an octopus in appearance. The plant was described by one naturalist by the name of Mr. Dunstan, who came face to face with its horrifying nature while spending two years studying the plants and animals of the region. In the account, Dunstan claimed to have come across the plant while in a swamp region near Lake Nicaragua. Dunstan, who was collecting plant and insect specimens in the area, suddenly heard his dog let out a high pitched whine of terror, pain, or both. Dunstan allegedly hurried to the source of the cries and found his dog enveloped by a network of rope-like roots and fibers. These fibers were of a dark, nearly black hue, and were covered with a thick gum that seemed to exude from some sort of pores. This gum was reportedly extremely adhesive and had a foul, animal odor. The ensnared dog struggled within this fibrous network and was wailing as if in a great deal of pain.
Once the startled Dunstan was able to recover from this gruesome sight, he tried desperately to cut the dog free with his knife, but found the vines to be surprisingly difficult to cut and to his horror found that the plant’s rope-like tendrils actively wrapped and curled themselves around his hands like sinuous fingers. Dunstan was able to extricate the animal only after an enormous amount of effort and he noticed that the grasping vines had left the skin of his hands red and blistered. He also noticed to his amazement that the dog was bloodstained and covered in spots that seemed puckered as if they had been sucked. The dog, though still alive, was extremely disoriented and had difficulty walking.
The naturalist told the natives of his encounter and they explained that the vine was well known and feared in the area, warning him to stay well away from it. Undaunted, Dunstan tried to collect more information on the bizarre vine, but found it to be very difficult to approach or handle. However, through his observations he apparently deduced where the plant’s remarkable suction abilities derived from and how it fed. He reported:
The plant’s power of suction is contained within a number of infinitesimal mouths or little suckers, which, ordinarily closed, open for the reception of food. If the substance is animal, the blood is drawn off and the carcass or refuse then dropped. A lump of raw meat being thrown to it, in the short space of five minutes the blood will be thoroughly drunk off and the mass thrown aside. Its voracity is almost beyond belief.
Dunstan also described how the plant was extremely hard to get off once it latched on, and could only be pulled away with a great deal of effort and possibly lost skin as it tried to actively hang on. He eventually gave up his studies on the vampire vine and very little else is known about it. Another supposed predatory vine was also reported in 1852 from the impenetrable, uncharted rain forests of interior Africa. According to Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, one newspaper report of the era described the bizarre plant, referred to as a “vegetable serpent” as follows:
According to some Italian journals, a new organised being has been discovered in the interior of Africa, which seems to form an immediate link between vegetable and animal life. This singular production of nature has the shape of a spotted serpent. It drags itself along on the ground; instead of a head, it has a flower, shaped like a bell, which contains a viscous liquid. Flies and other insects, attracted by the smell of the juice, enter into the flower, and are caught by the adhesive matter. The flower then closes, and, remains shut until the prisoners are bruised and transformed into chyle. The indigestible portions, such as the head and the wings, are thrown out by two aspiral openings. The vegetable serpent has a skin resembling leaves, a white and soft flesh, and, instead, of a bony skeleton, a cartilaginous frame filled with yellow marrow. The natives consider it a delicious food.
Another strange, snake-like plant is supposedly native to the wilds of Mexico, where something has long been said to lurk waiting for prey. There was purportedly a report of this strange plant within the September 1892 issue of Horticultural Times, which reads:
A late traveller was in Mexico on a botanical expedition One day he observed a dark object on one of the outlying spurs of the Sierra Madre Mountains, which so excited his curiosity he examined it carefully through his field glass. He saw it was a tree of such an unusual appearance, he decided to visit the spot. He rode on horseback to within a few rods of the summit, when he came to an abrupt rise he could not climb. On the top stood the tree. He saw it had long slender limbs, drooping like a weeping willow. They had a slimy, smoky appearance, and at times the whole tree seemed to writhe. His curiosity led him again and again to visit the spot to learn more, if possible, about this a horrible tree. One day be saw a bird circle about it for sometime, and then alight on the top. Then the branches began to move and curl upward. They turned, around the bird, which began to cry, and drew it down until he lost, sight of it. The botanist tried, as he had several times before, to climb the steep. The rock on which he stepped loosened and fell, himself with it.
He was not injured, and he found that the rock had left quite a cavity. He looked in and saw quite a cavern, and felt a current of fresh air blowing on his face. With his trowel he enlarged the hole so as to admit of his ascent. He saw the flattened body of the bird fall to the ground, which was covered with bones and feathers. He approached the tree as closely as he dared. It was not above 20 feet in height, but covered a great area. Its trunk was of prodigious thickness, knotted and scaly. From the top of this trunk, a few feet from the ground, its slimy branches curved upward and downward, nearly touching the ground with their tips. On his venturing to touch lightly one of the limbs it closed upon his hand with such force it tore the skin when he wrenched it away. The next day he visited the tree, carrying several chickens with which to feed it. The moment he tossed the fowls into the branches they began to sway to and fro with a snaky motion. After they had become gorged they were perfectly quiet, and he ventured to approach and examine them closely. They were covered with suckers similar to those of the octopus. The blood, of the fowls had been absorbed, leaving crimson stains on their surface. There was no foliage whatever on the tree.
Is there anything to such tales? What is going on here? Are these merely lore and exaggerated accounts or is there something more to it all? Are there man-eating plants out there in the wilds of our world or are these just tell-tale curiosities? Is it even possible for plants to move and behave like this? Whatever the case may be, it is certainly a look into a very odd realm of undiscovered life forms.