Man Eating Tree
Man-eating tree or carnivorus tree can refer to any of carioca legendary or cryptid carnivorous plants large enough to kill and consume a person or other large animal. The carnivorous plant with the largest known traps is probably Nepenthes rajah, which produces pitchers up to 41 cm (16 in) tall with a volume up to 3.5 litres (0.77 imp gal; 0.92 US gal). The pitcher of this species are designed to trap arthropods such as ants. However, the same bait may also attract rodents like the Summit rat (Rattus baluensis)and the Mountain treeshew (Tupaia montana) . Only very rarely will the rodents fall into the large pitchers of this species. Other large carnivorous plants that have similar properties include Nepenthes robcantleyi and Nepenthes attenboroughi.
The Nubian Tree
Phil Robinson, writing in Under the Punkah (1881), related the tales of his “uncle’s” travels throughout the world. He described a “man-eating tree” that was to be found in “Nubia”. In the tale, Robinson’s uncle describes the tree:
This awful plant, that rears its splendid death-shade in the central solitude of a Nubian fern forest, sickens by its unwholesome humours all vegetation from its immediate vicinity, and feeds upon the wild beasts that, in the terror of the chase, or the heat of noon, seek the thick shelter of its boughs ; upon the birds that, flitting across the open space, come within the charmed circle of its power, or innocently refresh themselves from the cups of its great waxen flowers ; upon even man himself when, an infrequent prey, the savage seeks its asylum in the storm, or turns from the harsh foot-wounding sword-grass of the glade, to pluck the wondrous fruit that hang plumb down among the wondrous foliage. And such fruit ! Glorious golden ovals, great honey drops, swelling by their own weight into pear-shaped translucencies. The foliage glistens with a strange dew, that all day long drips on to the ground below, nurturing a rank growth of grasses, which shoot up in places so high that their spikes of fierce blood-fed green show far up among the deep-tinted foliage of the terrible tree, and, like a jealous body-guard, keep concealed the fearful secret of the charnel-house within, and draw round the black roots of the murderous plant a decent screen of living green.
The story continues in describing how the tree captured and ate one of the uncle’s native companions, and how the uncle proceeded to shoot at the tree. When his ammunition was finally exhausted, the uncle continued his work using a knife to destroy the tree, as the tree fought back with its blood-sucking leaves, and entangling limbs.
The Vampire Vine
William Thomas Stead, editor of Review of Reviews, published a brief article that discussed a story purportedly found in Lucifer magazine, describing a plant in Nicaragua called by the natives the devil’s snare. This plant had the capability “to drain the blood of any living thing which comes within its death-dealing touch.” According to the article:
Mr. Dunstan, naturalist, who has recently returned from Central America, where he spent nearly two years in the study of the flora and the fauna of the country, relates the finding of a singular growth in one of the swamps which surround the great lakes of Nicaragua. He was engaged in hunting for botanical and entomological specimens, when he heard his dog cry out, as if in agony, from a distance. Running to the spot whence the animal’s cries came. Mr. Dunstan found him enveloped in a perfect network of what seemed to be a fine rope-like tissue of roots and fibres… The native servants who accompanied Mr. Dunstan manifested the greatest horror of the vine, which they call “the devil’s snare”, and were full of stories of its death-dealing powers. He was able to discover very little about the nature of the plant, owing to the difficulty of handling it, for its grasp can only be torn away with the loss of skin and even of flesh; but, as near as Mr. Dunstan could ascertain, its power of suction is contained in 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.