October is a month of goblins, ghouls, jack-o’-lanterns, and other scary things Halloween — what plants could be creepier than carnivorous ones? Fascinating and fun for children, these plants serve as an excellent science lesson. Pick up one of these deadly (but not to people) plants along with your pumpkin for carving into a jack o’ lantern.
Venus flytraps: One of the few plants that has the ability to move rapidly, its trapping mechanism is triggered when an insect or spider crawling along the leaves comes into contact with one or more of the plant hairs twice in succession. The redundant triggering serves as a safeguard, so the plant doesn’t use energy closing when nonliving objects that don’t provide nutrition fall into its crosshairs.
Pitcher plants: Don’t let these dainty little plants fool you! The cup-shaped pitcher plant stores a sweet-smelling juice that lures its insect victims in and then eats them up. The nectar contains enzymes that dissolve the insect. Large pitcher plants can even trap frogs, birds and snakes.
Sundews: The sundew gets its name from the gel on the ends of its exploding tentacles, which resembles morning dew. Insects that fly too close to the plant get stuck in the gel, much like flypaper, and are then devoured as the plant senses movement and wraps its tentacles around the bug.
Try something a little different and experiment with some creative designer pumpkin ideas in addition to or instead of your traditional jack-o’-lanterns this year. Painted pumpkins, polka-dot pumpkins, and hardware-adorned pumpkins create opportunities for playful, interesting and even elegant Halloween displays. You’ll need these supplies:
- Thin-bladed knife
- Large spoon or ice cream scoop
- Cookie cutters
- Drill and various-sized boring bits
- X-Acto knives in varying blade sizes
- Petroleum jelly
1. Gather your tools, and spread newspapers before you begin.
2. Using a large knife, carve out an opening at the top of the pumpkin, making the opening large enough to scoop out the insides — generally about two-thirds of the pumpkin’s diameter. Cut the top at an angle so it doesn’t fall into the pumpkin.
3. Scoop out the pumpkin’s insides with a large spoon or ice cream scoop.
4. Use cookie cutters as templates: Place on the pumpkin and hammer in slightly. Remove cookie cutter and cut out the shape.
5. Drill different-sized holes to form patterns by pressing the tip of the bit into the pumpkin and drilling gradually. Easy does it on the drill trigger; otherwise, you’ll rip the skin right off your pumpkin.
6. Use X-Acto knives for detail work on faces. They are also useful to shave off bits of pumpkin skin, enabling you to create spooky layered effects.
7. Help your pumpkin keep its moisture by coating it inside and out with petroleum jelly immediately after carving.
8. Mix a little bit of bleach with some water in a spray bottle, and mist the inside of your carved pumpkins to prolong their freshness and prevent mold from growing.
Roasted pumpkin seeds: After all of your hard work carving pumpkins, you need a treat! Rinse and drain the pumpkin seeds. In a mixing bowl, combine seeds, enough olive oil to lightly coat the seeds, and salt. Mix in some garlic powder, rosemary, or your favorite spice. (For a sweet and spicy treat, mix in chili powder, cinnamon, and sugar. For a hot, spicy snack, toss with pepper flakes, paprika, and cayenne pepper.) Spread mixture on a baking pan and roast at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Great for snacks or toss them in a salad.