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Monster of the Week: Nicaraguan vampire vines

The movie "The Ruins," which may have been inspired by Nicaraguan vampire vines.
The movie "The Ruins," which may have been inspired by Nicaraguan vampire vines.
DreamWorks SKG

Vampire vines supposedly live in the darkest swamps of Nicaragua. Natives of this country call the plant “The Devil’s Snare.” The core of the plant is shaped somewhat like an octopus, with multiple vines extending from the core. The vines are as thick as rope and are lined with tiny, vampiric mouths (shaped more like suckers, like those on an octopus) that the plant uses to feed on victims.

The vampire vine sets out its vines like traps, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come close enough to be ensnared. Multiple vines wrap around an intended victim, the appendages squeezing so tightly that it is almost impossible to tear away. All at once the dormant mouths open, feeding on the victim’s blood. The attack is so quick that natives claim that the only way to tear free is to cut the vines off, but even then the vines will continue to feed until they are wrenched off by force, ripping off flesh and muscle in the process.

One of the first reports of vampire vines came from Dr. Andrew Wilson, whose “Science Jottings” reports appeared in the Illustrated London News. Wilson described the plants as having a “voracious and insatiable [appetite for blood].”

Note that the vampire vine does not eat flesh. Once the plant has drained the victim of blood, it discards the corpse, pushing it away from the core as far as possible. Vampire vines in part inspired the 2008 horror film The Ruins, in which a group of young people find themselves trapped in Mayan ruins beset by vampire-like vines.