Carl Linnaeus, the great 18th-century Swedish naturalist who devised our system for ordering life, rebelled at the idea that plants could be carnivorous and that they only catch insects by accident. It wasn't until Charles Darwin's analysis that the idea of carnivorous plants was accepted by the mainstream scientific community. However, the idea of carnivorous plants appeared in many cultures prior to Darwin's analysis, most notably as the Man-Eating Tree. A Man-Eating Tree or Carnivorous Tree can refer to any of the many legendary or cryptozoological carnivorous plants that are large enough to kill and consume a person or other large animal. In actuality, the carnivorous plant with the largest known traps is probably the Nepethes Raja, which produces pitchers up to 38 cm (15 in) tall with a volume of up to 3.5 litres (0.77 imp gal; 0.92 US gal). This species traps small mammals. However, pitcher plants are leeches off trees, not large enough to consume people. In popular culture it is a common cryptid. It may have been a extremely large sundew plant.
- Main article: The Madagascar Tree
The earliest well known report of a Man-Eating Tree originated in the 1800s. In 1881 German explorer "Carl Liche" wrote an account in the South
Australian Register of encountering a sacrifice performed by the "Mkodo" tribe of Madagascar. "The slender delicate palps, with the fury of starved serpents, quivered a moment over her head, then as if with instinct and demonic intelligence fastened upon her in sudden coils round and round her neck and arms; then while her awful screams and yet more awful laughter rose wildly to be instantly strangled down again into a gurgling moan, the tendrils one after another, like great green serpents, with brutal energy and infernal rapidity, rose, retracted themselves, and wrapped her about in fold after fold, ever tightening with cruel swiftness and savage tenacity of anacondas fastening upon their prey."
The tree was given further publicity by the 1924 book by former Governor of Michigan Chase Osborn, Madagascar, Land of the Man-eating Tree. Osborn claimed that both the tribes and missionaries on Madagascar knew about the hideous tree, and also repeated the above Liche account.
- Main article: The Ya-Te-Veo
In J. W. Buel's Land and Sea (1887), the Ya-te-veo ("I-see-you-already") plant is said to catch and consume large insects, but also attempts to consume humans.
It is said to be a carnivorous plant that grows in parts of Central and South America with cousins in Africa and on the shores of the Indian Ocean. There are many different descriptions of the plant, but most reports say it has a short, thick trunk and long tendril like appendages which are used to catch prey. Some even claim it has an eye to locate its prey with.
The natives feared it like it had bad omens and was thought to be the work of evil witch doctor magic.
- Main article: Cow-Eating Tree
On October 18, 2007 residents of Padrame near Kokkoda in Uppinangady forest range sighted one such carnivorous tree trying to dine on a cow. According to reports, the cow owned by Anand Gowda had been left to graze in the forests.
The cow was suddenly grabbed by the branches and pulled from the ground. The terrified cow herd ran to the village, and Gowda got a band of villagers to the carnivorous tree.
Before the tree could have its meal, Anand Gowda and the villagers struck mortal blows to the branches that turned limp and the cow was rescued. Uppinangady range forest officer (RFO) Subramanya Rao said the tree was described as ‘pili mara’ (tiger tree) in native lingo.
He had received many complaints about cattle returning home in the evenings without tails. The field staff confirmed coming across a similar tree in Padrane, partially felled down.