Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Introduction to Carnivorous Plants: The Venus Flytrap

Most people have heard of carnivorous plants at one time or another. Perhaps once when at Home Depot you stumbled upon an odd looking plant in a small plastic cube.
Unfortunately, Carnivorous plants are surrounded by myth and obscurity. Much of what people know about them is wrong, and most of the large-scale nursery's that produce them can't even give decent care instructions.
In this post, I will not be covering the care of these plants, or answer the question of why the little plastic cubes they sometimes come in are the main cause of plant-death. Those topics are for next time. Today, meet the world of the Carnivorous plant enthusiast. It is certainly a weird one.

Dionaea muscipula (The Venus Flytrap)
The Venus Flytrap is, without a doubt, the most universally known carnivorous plant in existence. Not only has the Venus Flytrap made its way into popular culture, (think: Little Shop of Horrors)it has also infiltrated most garden centers. The Venus Flytrap is, contrary to popular belief, not a tropical plant. Therefore, it does not need the high humidity of a terrarium(This is why they often die). The natural range of the Venus Flytrap is restricted to a small bog in North Carolina known as "The Green Swamp." Here, over 17,000 acres of protected wetlands make a perfect climate for all sorts of carnivorous plants. Full sun, and temperatures in the 80's during the Summer are just right for our bug biting oddities.
Once Venus Flytraps entered the market, they were cloned so as not to be removed from their habitat. Most Venus Flytraps sold in retail locations are clones. As the popularity of these plants grew, biologists and hobbyists began collecting wild specimens with unique characteristics. These plants were used to create new "cultivars" with different trap sizes, shapes, and colors. One notable cultivar is the Dionaea muscipula 'Dente'. This variety has been bred to posses short teeth around the edge of the trap, instead of the more common long teeth variety.

The Trap
The most interesting aspect of the Venus Flytrap is its seemingly magical ability to lure and ensnare insects. The inside of the trap is red under intense light, and shines out like a beacon to all nearby bugs. As the bug draws nearer, it begins to pick up on the sickeningly sweet scent produced by the many thousands of nectar glads within the trap. If the insect lands within the trap, it must touch a series of trigger hairs(There are usually three trigger hairs on the Flytrap)within a few seconds of each other. After being triggered, the trap slams shut in the blink of an eye, displaying the fastest movement known in the Carnivorous Plant world.
Over the next several days, the Venus flytrap will slowly digest the insect with specialized glands, and absorb all of the nitrogen contained in the body. Because Carnivorous Plants often grow in nutrient poor peat moss, the capture of insects became necessary for the survival of the species. Once the plant consumes the small bug, the trap opens and reveals the empty shell of the insect.

In Part Two I will Discuss Another Well Known Carnivorous Plant: The Sundew


  1. these things are smaller than i thought

  2. They get bigger. It's not uncommon for traps to reach 1.5 in.
    That's a very young one.

  3. Flytraps are awesome. I have some seeds, but haven't planted them yet. I want to buy a big one, already grown..

  4. i had a small trap when i was younger. his name was ralph and i loved feeding him.

  5. They always freaked me out! Big time! :D
    Following and supporting!

  6. Nice blog man, really interesting.

  7. Long read, but the interesting content was definitely worth it

  8. Interesting stuff for sure. Keep us updated with more stuff like this.

    Follow: My blog

  9. These are the weirdest plants I've ever seen. I really want one!

  10. I thought it was bigger o.o

    Also check mine..

  11. I used to have one when I lived down south, but then I lost it to my house fire. I mmight get one some other time though

    Looking forward to more from you

  12. Cool article, looking forward to part 2!