Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Comparative and functional morphology of hierarchically structured anti-adhesive surfaces in carnivorous plants and kettle trap flowers

Simon Poppinga A C , Kerstin Koch B , Holger Florian Bohn A C and Wilhelm Barthlott A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Nees-Institut für Biodiversität der Pflanzen, Meckenheimer Allee 170, D-53115 Bonn, Germany.

B University of Applied Science, Rhine-Wall, Landwehr 4, D-47533 Kleve, Germany.

C Present address: Plant Biomechanics Group Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Schänzlestrasse 1, D-79104 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 37(10) 952-961
Submitted: 19 March 2010  Accepted: 14 June 2010   Published: 23 September 2010


Plant surfaces that are slippery for insects have evolved independently several times in the plant kingdom, mainly in the groups of carnivorous plants and kettle trap flowers. The surface morphologies of 53 species from both groups were investigated by scanning electron microscopy. It was found that the surfaces possess highly diverse topographical structures. We present a classification of 12 types of anti-adhesive surfaces, in regard to the assembly and hierarchy of their structural elements. The observed structural elements are different combinations of epidermal cell curvatures with cuticular folds or 3D epicuticular wax crystals and idioblastic elements.

Additional keywords: insect attachment, pitcher trap, surface microstructure.


The authors thank the Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur Mainz (long-term project ‘Biodiversität im Wandel’) for their financial support, and Prof. F. Albers and Melanie Wiethölter from the Botanical Garden of Münster for providing plant material.


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