Carnivorous (?) Seeds

William C. Agosta (
Fri, 19 May 1995 11:56:01 -0400

I am a chemist interested in interspecific chemical communication,
but I know very little about carnivorous plants. I would appreciate
information from any of you concerning a note published some years ago on
the attraction of insect larvae by the seeds of Capsella bursa-pastoris
(shepherd's purse) (Barber, J. T. , "Capsella bursa-pastoris Seeds: Are They
'Carnivorous'?", Carnivorous Plant Newsletter 1978, 7, 39-42). Barber
reported that the seeds attract very small larvae by means of a chemical
attractant. The larvae then become attached to the mucilaginous pellicle
surrounding the seeds. The seeds liberate proteases that digest the larvae,
and then they absorb and incorporate the resulting amino acids.
I would like to learn about more recent work on this, either
supporting or disproving the original work. I have located no subsequent
papers or critical comment, although the work has occasionally been cited as
an unusual example of chemical communication.
Thanks for whatever you can tell me.

William C. Agosta
The Rockefeller University
New York