Questions for “‘Vampire’ parasite challenges the definition of a plant”

Langsdorffia hypogaea male and female

These supreme grifters of the plant kingdom send up showy flowers (Langsdorffia hypogea male, left; female, right) but don’t bother with even a single green leaf. Instead, they just sneak around underground and steal all their food.

Jean Carlos Santos

To accompany “‘Vampire’ parasite challenges the definition of a plant


Before Reading:

1.  In fiction, what are vampires? Give three reasons why you think people may find them interesting.

During Reading:

1.  What is a parasite?

2.  In what ways are Langsdorffia plants pretty and in what ways are they not?

3.  How many species of these plants are there?

4.  How do these plants feed?

5.  Where do these plants grow?

6.  Do these plants need to be pollinated? And if so, what animals would do it?

After Reading:

1.  “They’re vampire plants,” Chris Thorogood says of Langsdorffia. Explain why you think this is a good description — or not. If you don’t think so, what would be a better metaphor? For comparison, you might want to consider these “true vampires.”

2.  The world is full of parasites. Read up on one or two others. What may be some of the environmental pressures that encourage organisms to evolve such a feeding strategy?