Saturday, November 26, 2011

Crazy Plants: Venus Flytrap

A trap of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

Native distribution of this species
Of course, carnivorous plants have to be some of the most fascinating ones out there due to the fact that they don't strictly photosynthesize all of their food. Instead, they use specialized structures to capture insects to aide in their own nutrition. Most of them can grow without this extra food source, but are much healthier when insects are readily available. Generally, carnivorous plants are only found in areas with poor soil, which is true of the Venus flytrap. In fact, it is native to my area, where the soil is sandy, often saturated with water, and acidic in pH. This harsh environment can make it very difficult for plants to grow, so several different carnivorous plants are found locally.

Multiple views, including the flowers
The Venus flytrap is famous for the action of its traps. Some carnivorous plants use pitchers or other devices to capture insects, but the flytrap uses traps made from modified leaves. The red coloration on the inside is meant to mimic rotting meat to attract insects, and a sweet nectar is also meant to attract. Tiny hairs on the inside of the trap are triggers that cause the trap to close, and the more of the hairs that are triggered, the faster and tighter will it close. A minimum of two hairs have to be triggered before the trap will close at all. The projections on the outer edge of the trap are used to keep struggling insects inside. For digestion of prey to occur, the trap has to close completely. The flowers are rather pretty as well.

The Venus fly trap is a prized plant for cultivation due to its interesting shape, color, and behavior. Unfortunately, it has proven to be such a popular plant and so many have been collected that they actually became endangered. Currently, according to the IUCN Red List, the plant is Vulnerable.The major threat continues to be the illegal collection of these plants.

Here's a video of this unusual plant (and other carnivorous plants), narrated by the ever-great David Attenborough:

Source is the Botanical Society of America and the ARKive. Images are from Wikimedia Commons and are either under Creative Commons licenses or are copyright free: one, two, three.


  1. I love the venus fly trap. I am growing my first TickleMe Plant that will closes its leaves and lower its branches when Tickled. I think it must be a friend of the venus fly trap.

  2. The two species are actually only distantly related (in the fact that they are both flowering plants). The two styles of movement evolved independently and for completely different purposes.

    Here's a previous post of mine on the "TickleMe Plant":