Types of carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plant

Major families

The largest carnivorous plant family, Lentibulariaceae (order Lamiales), is marked by bilaterally symmetrical flowers with fused petals and only two anthers. This family has a fairly cosmopolitan distribution and comprises more than 300 species in three genera: the bladderworts (Utricularia, about 220 species), the butterworts (Pinguicula, about 80 species), and the corkscrew plants (Genlisea, about 22 species). Employing a variety of trapping mechanisms, members of that family are predominantly herbs of wet or aquatic habitats and prey on insects and other invertebrates.

The family Droseraceae (order Caryophyllales) comprises three genera and about 154 species, nearly all of which are sundews (genus Drosera). The aquatic genus Aldrovanda contains only one species, the waterwheel plant (A. vesiculosa), which is sometimes grown in aquaria as a curiosity. Similarly, the genus Dionaea consists of only the Venus flytrap (D. muscipula), well known for its quick-acting snap trap and commonly sold as a novelty. Once classified within Droseraceae, the Portuguese sundew (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) is now placed within its own family, Drosophyllaceae (order Caryophyllales), of which it is the only species.

  • roundleaf sundewSticky gland-tipped hairs of the roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), which attract and digest insects.© Maslov Dmitry/Fotolia
  • waterwheel plantCarnivorous waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda vesiculosa). An aquatic species, the waterwheel plant uses rapid snap traps to ensnare and digest small invertebrates.© Denis Barthel
  • Venus flytrapClose-up of the carnivorous traps of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).© Jane/Fotolia

Despite their similar trapping mechanisms, pitcher plants can be found in five genera across three families. The species of New World pitcher plants are placed in the family Sarraceniaceae (order Ericales). About 10 of the 34 species belong to the widely known and much-studied genus Sarracenia, of eastern North America. The sun pitchers, also known as marsh pitcher plants (genus Heliamphora), are native to a limited region in South America and consist of about 23 species. The cobra plant (Darlingtonia californica) is the only member of its genus and is indigenous to northern California and southern Oregon. The approximately 140 species of Old World pitcher plants constitute the only genus of the family Nepenthaceae, Nepenthes (order Caryophyllales). Mostly native to Madagascar, Southeast Asia, and Australasia, many members of Nepenthaceae are climbing plants, and some live as epiphytes in trees. The pitcher plant family Cephalotaceae (order Oxalidales) consists of only the Western Australian pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis).

  • crimson pitcher plantCrimson pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla). Its carnivorous pitchers attract and digest insects.Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Raffles’ pitcher plantPitcher of the carnivorous Raffles’ pitcher plant (Nepenthes rafflesiana).© rpiola/Fotolia

Known as rainbow plants, the family Byblidaceae (order Lamiales) contains a single genus (Byblis) of about seven carnivorous species native to Australia and New Guinea. Those herbs have narrow leaves that are densely covered with glandular hairs that serve as flypaper traps to absorb nutrients from insects.

The pineapple family (Bromeliaceae, order Poales) has at least three carnivorous species: Brocchinia reducta, B. hectioides, and Catopsis berteroniana. Those species have urnlike pitfall traps formed by the tightly packed leaf bases that are characteristic of the family. They are not known to produce digestive enzymes and instead rely on bacteria to break down their prey.

Top 10 Fascinating Carnivorous Plants

Out of all the strange plants in the world, who would have thought that you even get flesh eating plants? Well, maybe not so much “flesh” eating, as insect eating, but carnivorous none the less. All carnivorous plants can be found in areas where the soil has very little nutrients. These fascinating plants are categorized as carnivorous as they trap insects and arthropods, produce digestive juices, dissolve the prey and derive some, or most, of their nutrients from this process. The first book on these plants was written by Charles Darwin, in 1875, “Insectivorous Plants”. After further discoveries and research, it is believed that these carnivorous properties evolved on six separate occasions, from five different orders of flowering plants. These are now presented in over 630 different species of flowering plant.

There are five basic trapping mechanisms found in all these plants: Pitfall traps, Fly Paper traps, Snap traps, Bladder traps and Lobster pot traps. I would like to show you a couple of plants, using each mechanism, so that you can also see the differences between different genera.

10 Sarracenia

Sarracenia, or the North American Pitcher plant, is a Genus of carnivorous plants indigenous to the eastern seaboard, Texas, the great lakes and south eastern Canada, with most species being found only in the southeast states. It is also the first plant with a pitfall trap that we will look at.

The plant’s leaves have evolved into a funnel, with a hood like structure growing over the opening to prevent rain water from diluting the digestive juices. Insects are attracted by colour, smell and a nectar-like secretion on the lip of the pitcher. Slippery footings, aided in at least one species, by a narcotic drug lacing the nectar, causes insects to fall inside where they die and are digested by proteases and other enzymes

9 Nepenthes

Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, are another genus of carnivorous plants with pitfall traps. There are about 130 species that are wide spread, and can be found in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Madagascar, Seychelles, Australia, India, Borneo and Sumatra. The nickname “monkey cups” comes from the fact that monkeys have often been observed drinking rain water from them.

Most species of Nepenthes are tall creepers (10-15m), with a shallow root system. From the stem you will often see sword like leaves growing, with a tendril (often used for climbing) protruding from the tip of the leaf. At the end of the tendril, the pitcher forms first as a small bulb, which then expands and forms the cup. The trap contains fluid, produced by the plant, which may be watery ors syrupy and is used to drown and digest the insects. The lower part of the cup contains glands that absorb and distribute nutrients. Most of these plants are small and tend to trap only insects, but some larger species, such as Nepenthes Rafflesiana and Nepenthes Rajah, have been documented to catch small mammals like rats.

8 Genlisea

Genlisea, better known as the corkscrew plant, is made up of 21 species and generally grows in wet terrestrial to semi aquatic environments, and are spread across Africa, central and South America.

Genlisea are small herbs with yellow flowers that make use of lobster pot traps (Traps that are easy to enter but impossible to exit, like by use of small hairs growing towards the entrance or in this case, the ever forward propelling spiral). These plants have two distinct types of leaves – photosynthetic leaves above ground, and specialized underground leaves to attract, trap and digest minute organisms, like protozoans. These underground leaves also perform the duties of roots, like absorbing water and anchorage, as the plant does not have any. These underground leaves form hollow tubes under the ground, these tubes have a forward propelling corkscrew shape, and with the aid of constant water flow, small microbes can make their way into these tubes, but cannot find a way out again. When they reach the correct part of the tubes, they will be digested and absorbed.

7 Darlingtonia Californica

Darlingtonia Californica, also called the California Pitcher plant or the Cobra Lilly, is the sole member of the darlingtonia genus, and is native to Northern California and Oregon. They grow in bogs and seeps with cold running water and, due to its rarity in the field, it is designated as uncommon.

The leaves of the Cobra Lily are bulbous and form a hollow cavity, with a opening situated underneath a swollen, balloon like structure and two pointed leaves hanging off the end like fangs. Unlike most pitcher plants, the Cobra Lilly does not make use of a pitfall trap, but rather lobster pot traps. Once inside, insects are confused by the large light speckles allowed to shine through the plant. When they land, there are thousands of fine dense hairs that grow inwards, they can follow the hairs deeper towards the digestive organs, but they cannot turn around or move backwards to escape.

6 Utricularia

Utricularia, or collectively known as bladderworts, is a genus of carnivorous plants consisting of about 220 species. They occur in fresh water and wet soil as terrestrial or aquatic species, on every continent accept Antarctica.

They are the only carnivorous plants that make use of bladder traps. Most species have very small traps, in which they can catch only minute prey, like protozoa. Traps can range from 0.2mm – 1.2cm, with larger traps, trapping larger prey like water fleas and even small tadpoles.

The traps have small trigger hairs attached to a trapdoor. The bladder, when set, is under negative pressure in relationship to its surrounding area. When the trigger hairs are tripped, the trap door opens up, sucks in the insect and surrounding water, and closes the door again, all in a matter of 10 thousands of a second.

5 Pinguicula

Pinguicula, or butterworts, are a group of carnivorous plants that use sticky, glandular leaves to lure, trap and digest insects. The nutrients from the insects supplement the poor mineral content of the soil. There are roughly 80 species that can be found throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia.

The leaves of the butterwort are succulent and usually bright green or pinkish in color. There are two special types of cells found on the top side of the butterwort leaves. One is known as a penduncular gland, and consists of secretory cells on top of a single stalk cell. These cells produce a mucilaginous secretion which forms visible droplets across the leaves surface, and acts like flypaper. The other cells are called sessile glands. They lie flat on the leaves surface and produce enzymes like amylase, esterase and protease, which aid in the digesting process.

Where some butterwort species are carnivorous all year round, many types form a tight winter rosette, which is not carnivorous. When summer comes, it brings with it new blooms and a new set of carnivorous leaves.

4 Drosera

Drosera, commonly known as sundews, comprises one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, with at least 194 species. These can be found widely spread on every continent accept for Antarctica. Sundews, (depending on what species) can form either prostrate or upright rosettes, ranging from 1cm to 1m in height, and can live up to 50 years.

Sundews are characterized by movable glandular tentacles, topped with sweet sticky secretions. When an insect lands on the sticky tentacles, the plant is able to move more tentacles in the direction of the insect to trap it further. Once trapped, small sessile glands will digest the insect and absorb the resulting nutrients, which can then be used to aid growth.

3 Byblis

Byblis, or rainbow plant, is a small genus of carnivorous plant native to Australia. The name rainbow plant comes from the attractive appearance of their mucilage covered leaves in the sun. Even though these plants look similar to the Drosera and Drosophllum, they are not related in any way and can be distinguished by zygomorphic flowers with five curved stamens.

The leaves have a round cross section, and they tend to be very elongated and tapered at the end. The surface of the leaves are completely covered in glandular hairs that release a sticky mucilaginous substance, which in turn traps small insects on the leaves or tentacles as a passive flypaper trap.

2 Aldrovanda vesiculosa

Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel plant, is a fascinating rootless, carnivorous, aquatic plant. It generally feeds on small aquatic vertebrates, using a trap mechanism called a snap trap.

This plant consists mainly of free floating stems, reaching 6 – 11cm in length. The 2-3mm trap leaves grow in whorls of 5-9, in close succession along the plant’s central stem. The traps are attached to petioles, which contain air, and assists in floatation. This is a very fast growing plant and can reach 4-9mm per day, in some instances even producing a new whorl every day. As the plant grows from one end, the other end will continuously die off.

The traps basically consists of two lobes which fold together to make the snap traps. The openings of the trap point outwards, and are covered in a fine coating of trigger hairs, which will cause the trap to snap shut around any prey that comes too close. The trap closes in only 10 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest examples of plant movement in the animal kingdom.

1 Dionaea Muscipula

Dionaea Muscipula, more commonly known as a Venus flytrap, is probably the most well-known carnivorous plant and it feeds mainly on insects and arachnids.

The Venus flytrap is a small plant that has 4-7 leaves that grow from a short subterranean stem. The leaf blade is divided into two regions: a flat, long, heart shaped, photosynthesis capable petiole, and a pair of terminal lobes, hinged at the midrib, forming the trap which is actually the true leaf. The inner surfaces of these lobes contain a red pigment and the edges secrete mucilage.

These lobes exhibit rapid plant movement by snapping shut when special sensory hairs are stimulated. The plant is so advanced that it can tell the difference between live stimulus and non-living stimulus. The lobes snap shut in about 0.1 seconds. They are fringed by stiff thorn-like protrusions or cilia, which mesh together and prevent large prey from escaping. Once prey is unable to escape and the inner surfaces of the lobes are continuously being stimulated, the edges of the lobes grow or fuse together, sealing the trap and creating an enclosed “stomach” in which digestion and absorption can take place.

Feed Me Seymour! 5 Types of Carnivorous Plants

As a result of coping with deprived soil quality, carnivorous plants evolved and advanced by supplementing their diet with animal organisms. Nearly all carnivorous plants capture and eat insects, but a few have been noted to consume mice and other small rodents. Below are five types of carnivorous plants that have managed to adapt to otherwise inhospitable environments.

Venus Flytrap

via flickr/The_Gut

The Venus flytrap is usually the first species that enters people’s minds when the subject of carnivorous plants comes up. The main part of the plant is comprised of two open leaves, hinged together to form a sort of jaw, with fine hairs lining the edges. As soon as an insect touches a couple of the hairs on the plant, the flytrap rapidly snaps closed and begins to digest its prey. Venus flytraps are among the few plants to facilitate rapid movement. Once its prey is digested, the jaws will open once more, prepared for the next snack. To avoid squandering energy, the flytrap only closes after any two or more hairs have been touched, usually within 20 seconds of the initial movement.

Drosera

via flickr/Orin Zebest

Species of the Drosera genus are frequently called sundews since their leaves are arranged in a circular pattern, like the sun’s rays, and appear to be covered with dew, which draw in unsuspecting insects. The “dew” is really a sticky, digestive enzyme. Drosera plants are capable of ensnaring and digesting their prey. These plants are widespread in nutrient-deficient locations like swamps and beach areas. There are about 200 diverse species of Drosera plants that have currently been identified.

Sarracenia

via flickr/aarongunnar

Sarracenia are widely known as pitcher plants, originating in parts of the US and Canada. Different from other species, Sarracenia appear related to ordinary flowers. Because of this, North American pitchers are masters at tricking their prey into coming in for a closer look. At summer’s end, the Sarracenia’s foliage turns a profound burgundy-red hue, attracting flies. As soon as the fly comes into the high, hollow leaf, it rapidly plunges into water and is then trapped. The pitcher’s steep sides, along with the slick, watery enzymes, prevent any possibility of escape.

Nepenthes

via flickr/i-saint

Nepenthes are also identified as pitchers, but as a tropical species. This carnivorous plant inhabits tropical locations throughout Asia, Australia, and Sri Lanka. The Nepenthes contain pitchers that begin as small buds, containing self-made liquid. Enticed by the nectar’s aroma, insects and even smaller rodents will find themselves ensnared. With this pitcher, also called ‘monkey cups’, the plant senses movement and the Nepenthe’s digestive process begins, releasing powerful digestive fluids and devouring the prey.

Pinguicula

via flickr/mannewaar

Pinguicula, commonly known as butterwort, is a carnivorous plant comparable to Drosera. They, like Drosera, grow dewy, sticky leaves to trap their prey. These plants are recognized mainly for their brilliant, multi-colored blooms. Although the flowers typically last only a short time, they can display vibrant shades of lavender while in bloom. While in its active carnivorous season, their leaves become sticky with dew to seize prey. Upon entering the winter season, they grow dormant, comparable to a succulent, and the sticky enzymes are not produced.

The Botanical Society of America is pleased to provide the “Carnivorous Plant” pages. We are in the early stages of developing this section of our site; check back regularly. In the meantime, enjoy the images (mainly donated by members) and the stories they tell. We hope these strange and interesting plants open up your possibilities for asking new questions about the fascinating lives of plants!
Carnivorous plants have the most bizarre adaptations to low-nutrient environments. These plants obtain some nutrients by trapping and digesting various invertebrates, and occasionally even small frogs and mammals. Because insects are one of the most common prey items for most carnivorous plants, they are sometimes called insectivorous plants. It is not surprising that the most common habitat for these plants is in bogs and fens, where nutrient concentrations are low but water and sunshine seasonally abundant. As many as thirteen species of carnivorous plants have been found in a single bog (Folkerts, 1982). Most plants absorb nitrogen from the soil through their roots. But carnivorous plants absorb nitrogen from their animal prey through their leaves specially modified as traps.

Traps work in a variety of ways.
Pitfall traps of pitcher plants are leaves folded into deep, slippery pools filled with digestive enzymes.
Flypaper (or sticky or adhesive traps) of sundews and butterworts are leaves covered in stalked glands that exude sticky mucilage.
Snap traps (or steel traps) of the Venus flytrap and waterwheel plant are hinged leaves that snap shut when trigger hairs are touched.
Suction traps, unique to bladderworts, are highly modified leaves in the shape of a bladder with a hinged door lined with trigger hairs.
Lobster-pot traps of corkscrew plants are twisted tubular channels lined with hairs and glands.

Carnivorous plants are fascinating because, even when they are not trapping insects, their unusual forms are intriguing. However, you should not collect plants in the wild because most of them are relatively rare. Habitat destruction and over collection are two of the greatest conservation threats to carnivorous plants. If you are interested in growing carnivorous plants in your home or classroom, purchase the plants from a reputable grower who uses tissue culture or vegetative means to grow the plant, or starts them from seeds.
Unraveling the story of carnivorous plant evolution and ecology has occupied biologists for centuries. Charles Darwin’s extensive experiments confirmed the carnivorous habit for several genera. Carnivory has been documented in at least 9 plant families and 600 species.
We now know that the carnivorous habit evolved independently in many plant lineages (Albert et al., 1992; Ellison and Gotelli, 2001; Cameron et al., 2002; Muller et al., 2004). Pitfall traps evolved independently in four plant groups (the eudicot orders Caryophyllales, Oxalidales, Ericales, and the monocot family Bromeliaceae), and sticky traps, in at least three (the Caryophyllales, Ericales, and Lamiales). These are examples of convergent evolution. In contrast, the snap trap and lobster-pot traps evolved only once among carnivorous plants. In the descriptions below, the plant groups and names follow the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group II (1993) and Peter Stevens’ Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, which do not use formal classification ranks above the level of the order.

Kingdom: Plantae — Eudicots, Basal Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales

Family: Nepenthaceae Genus: Nepenthes
Tropical Pitcher Plant or Monkey Cup

Currently 90 listed species occupying tropical habitats in Australia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the Seychelles, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
For more Nepenthes information and images –

Family: Drosophyllaceae

One species occupying coastal habitats in northern Morocco, Portugal, and southwest Spain.
For more Drosophyllum information –

Family: Dioncophyllaceae Genus: Triphyophyllum

One species occupying rainforest habitats in West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast).
More Triphyophyllum peltatum information COMING SOON!

Family: Droseraceae Genus: Drosera
Sundew

Currently 152 listed species occupying temperate and tropical habitats throughout the world.
For more Drosera information and images –

Family: Droseraceae Genus: Dionaea
Venus Flytrap

One species occupying habitats in the southeastern United States of America (North Carolina, South Carolina).
For more Dionea muscipula information and images –

Family: Droseraceae Genus: Aldrovanda
Waterwheel Plant

One species occupying aquatic habitats in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Once widely distributed in Africa, India, and Japan.
More Aldrovanda vesiculosa information COMING SOON!

Kingdom: Plantae — Eudicots, Rosids, Eurosids I
Order: Oxalidales

Family: Cephalotaceae Genus: Cephalotus
Albany or Western Australian Pitcher Plant

One species occupying peaty swamps in southwestern Australia.
For more Cephalotus follicularis information –

Kingdom: Plantae — Eudicots, Asterids, Basal Asterids
Order: Ericales

Family: Sarraceniaceae Genus: Darlingtonia
Cobra Lily

One species occupying boggy habitats in the northwest United States of America (southern Oregon, northern California).
For more Darlingtonia californica information

Family: Sarraceniaceae Genus: Sarracenia
Pitcher Plant

Currently 10 listed species occupying habitats in eastern North America (central Canada to southeastern United States of America).
For more Sarracenia information –

Family: Sarraceniaceae Genus: Heliamphora
Marsh or Sun Pitcher

Currently 7 listed species occupying mountain plateaus of the Guiana Shield in north-central South America (Venezuela and bordering Brazil and Guyana).
More Heliamphora

Family: Roridulaceae Genus: Roridula
Bug Plant or South African Fly Bush

Two species occuring in fynbos of Southern Africa. Roridula has sticky leaves to trap insects but lacks enzymes to digest them. It has sometimes been considered as carnivorous, sometimes not. Evaluate the evidence and decide for yourself.
More Roridula information and images COMING SOON!

Kingdom: Plantae — Eudicots, Asterids, Euasterids I
Order: Lamiales

Family: Lentibulariaceae Genus: Utricularia
Bladderwort

Currently 220 listed species occupying temperate and tropical habitats throughout the world–the most diverse and widespread genus of carnivorous plants.
For more Utricularia information and images –

Family: Lentibulariaceae Genus: Genlisea
Corkscrew Plant

Currently 20 listed species occupying habitats in Africa, Madagascar, and South America.
More Genlisea information and images

Family: Lentibulariaceae Genus: Pinguicula
Butterwort

Currently 79 listed species occupying habitats in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.
For more Pinguicula information and images –

Family: Byblidaceae Genus: Byblis
Rainbow Plant

Currently 5 listed species occupying habitats in northern and western Australia and New Guinea.
For more Byblis information and images –

Kingdom: Plantae — Monocotyledons, Commelinids
Order: Poales, Family: Bromeliaceae

Subfamily Pitcairnioideae Genus: Brocchinia

Of the 5 species in the genus occupying lowland savanna and mountain habitats in South America, at least 2 species are carnivorous.
More Brocchinia reducta and B. hectioides information COMING SOON!

Subfamily Tillandsioideae Genus: Catopsis

Of the 21 species in the genus, 1 species is carnivorous. It occupies humid habitats in South America, Central America, Mexico, the West Indies, and Florida, U.S.A.
More Catposis berteroniana information COMING SOON!

Protocarnivorous Plants and Predatory Fungi

Carnivorous plants have features to attract, trap, kill, and digest prey, and absorb nutrients. A number of plants have only some of these characteristics. Glands that secrete sticky substances are found in many plants. Pitcher-like tanks are common in bromeliads and in few other plants. While perhaps not fully fledged sticky traps or pitfall traps, these features hint of the potential for carnivory. The list of plants described as near carnivorous, protocarnivorous, or borderline carnivorous is quite diverse, including Ibicella lutea (Mameli, 1916), Dipsacus (Christy, 1923), Passiflora foetida (Radhamani et al., 1995), Paepalanthus bromeloides (Jolivet, 1998), and Geranium viscosissimum and Potentilla arguta (Spomer, 1999). No single definitive list exists. Ibicella lutea, which has not been studied since 1916 (Juniper et al., 1989), is sometimes listed as carnivorous, and Catopsis berteroniana is sometimes described as borderline. The ability to digest prey and absorb the amino acids is considered the real clincher.

Carnivory is more widespread than just the plant and animal kingdoms. The fungi kingdom has flesh eaters also (Pramer, 1964). Living in the soil are over 200 species of fungi (identified as zygomycetes, basidiomycetes, and hyphomycetes) that use special structures to trap nematodes. Like carnivorous plants, these fungi have the ability to trap prey and to absorb nutrients from the body of their prey. The traps of fungi come in two general types: constricting rings (active traps) and adhesive structures (passive traps). These trap types occur in separate fungi lineages (Ahren et al., 1998).

Special thanks to Dr. Sherwin Carlquist, Dr. Janice Glime, Dr. David Webb, Dr. Barry Rice (www.sarracenia.com), Dr. J. Howard Frank and the International Carnivorous Plant Society for their contributions to these pages!

Intrigued? Want to see more? Take a look at the following pages!

Investigate the American Journal of Botany images & cover stories online: BSA Online Image Collection

Want to surf the web for more carnivorous plant information? —Try these sites:
International Carnivorous Plant Society, www.sarracenia.com, The Mysterious Venus Flytrap, Flora of North America Carnivorous Plant Fact Sheet

Growing Carnivorous Plants: Learn About Various Types Of Carnivorous Plants

Growing carnivorous plants is a fun project for the family. These unique plants provide insect control and a riot of forms, colors and textures to the home garden. Carnivorous plant habitats are primarily temperate to warm, moist and nutrient-deficient. This is why all types of carnivorous plants must supplement their nutrient intake with insects, or even small animals and amphibians. Gather some information on what are carnivorous plants’ needs and get started on raising an interesting form of life.

What are Carnivorous Plants?

The vast array of forms in the carnivorous plant family is far too numerous to detail entirely in a list of carnivorous plants, and their predatory methods range the limits of imagination. Their reputation as man eaters is entirely false but some carnivorous plants can catch small mammals and amphibians, such as frogs. The smallest of the group are just an inch high and the largest may get 50 feet long with 12-inch traps.

Sarracenia is a genus of carnivorous plants known to most gardeners as pitcher plants. They are native to North America and may be found growing wild in boggy, warm areas. There are also pitcher plants in the

genera Nepenthesand Darlingtonia. Sundews belong in the genus Droseriathat are the type with sticky hairy pads. The Venus flytrap is also a member of the sundew genus.

Carnivorous plants grow where soils are low in nitrogen, which is a crucial nutrient for plant vegetative growth. In fact, these plants have evolved various methods for capturing and digesting insects to supplement their nitrogen content.

Types of Carnivorous Plants

There are around 200 different types of carnivorous plants with various methods of trapping their necessary food. A complete list of carnivorous plants would include those that drown, mechanically trap or catch their prey with gluey substance.

Carnivorous plants come in many shapes and sizes. Their most defining forms are the methods they employ to catch their prey. Many simply drown the insects in a funnel or vase-shaped organ that has liquid at the bottom, such as with pitcher plants.

Others actually have a sensitive motion activated trap. These may be claw shaped, hinged, toothy or leaf like. The snap mechanism is triggered by the insect’s movements and closes quickly on the prey. The Venus flytrap is a prime example of this mechanism.

Sundews have sticky pads on leaf-like extensions. These are gluey and have a digestive enzyme in the shimmering beads of liquid.

Bladderworts are underwater plants that use bloated, hollow leaf tissue with a small opening at one end, to suck in prey and digest them within.

Growing Carnivorous Plants

The most commonly available carnivorous plants for the home gardener are primarily bog plants. They require high humidity and consistent moisture. Carnivorous plants require acidic soils, which are easily provided with sphagnum peat moss in the potting medium. Carnivorous plants do well in a terrarium environment, which helps conserve moisture.

They also like bright sunlight, which may come from a window or artificially provided. Carnivorous plant habitats are moderate to warm in temperature. Daytime temperatures around 70-75 F. (21-24 C.), with nighttime temperatures no less than 55 F. (13 C.), provide ideal growing conditions.

In addition, you’ll need to provide insects for the plants or feed them a on-quarter dilution of fish fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season.

Carnivorous Plants Around The Globe Use Similar Deadly Tricks

The Australian pitcher plant repurposed some of its genes in order to digest bugs. Natalie McNear/Flickr hide caption

toggle caption Natalie McNear/Flickr

The Australian pitcher plant repurposed some of its genes in order to digest bugs.

Natalie McNear/Flickr

Plants that feed on flesh have fascinated scientists going all the way back to Charles Darwin, and researchers now have new insight into how these meat-eaters evolved.

Even plants that evolved continents away from one another rely on strikingly similar tricks to digest their prey.

“The pathways to evolving a carnivorous plant, and in particular, to a pitcher plant, may be very restricted,” says Victor Albert, a biologist at the University at Buffalo.

In the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, he and his colleagues say they’ve found genetic changes related to carnivory in Australian, Asian and American pitcher plants.

Unlike the famous Venus flytrap, which has jaws that snap shut, pitcher plants trap insects by luring them into a cup-shaped leaf with slippery sides.

YouTube

Once bugs fall in, they don’t make it back out. Instead, they get stuck in a liquid that breaks down their exoskeleton and flesh, giving the plant the nutrients it needs to survive in a resource-poor environment.

Scientists have long wondered how meat-eating plants like these developed such an unusual lifestyle. “It’s kind of counterintuitive that a plant is actually using an animal for some of its food,” says Albert, who says he has been fascinated by carnivorous plants since he was a kid. “We usually think of animals, such as ourselves, as using plants.”

To explore genetic changes that might allow plants to catch and digest prey, Albert and his colleagues first focused on the Australian pitcher plant. This plant has two different types of leaves — plain old leaves that photosynthesize and specialized leaves that form into the bug-catching pitcher. The researchers sequenced the plant’s DNA and then looked to see which genes were turned on in each type of leaf.

“What we found is that certain genes are only on in the pitcher leaf, or preferentially on in the pitcher leaf, and that some of these very likely have to do with the trap development,” Albert says.

The researchers also took samples of fluid from this plant’s traps to analyze the stew of digestive enzymes and other proteins, and compared it to fluid from the unrelated American and Asian pitcher plant species. They also looked at digestive juices in another carnivorous plant, a sundew, which has leaves with sticky little hairs that trap insects like flypaper.

What they found is that all of the plants seemed to rely on similar enzymes — despite the fact that these plants evolved independently.

“In a number of cases, the very same genes from noncarnivorous ancestors have been recruited for carnivorous purposes,” says Thomas Givnish, who studies plant evolution at the University of Wisconsin.

What’s more, the genes seemed to have been tweaked in similar ways — presumably because they’re all doing similar jobs to help the plants consume their prey. “So it’s a really unique study and the first of its kind,” Givnish says.

Some of these enzymes originally existed to help plants defend against stresses like fungal infections but got repurposed for eating bugs.

One example, Albert says, is called chitinase: “The chitinase that was originally probably evolved in defense from fungal chitin was repurposed, so to speak, to attack and break down the chitin of insect exoskeletons.”

5 Carnivorous Plants You Wouldn’t Want To Mess With

From flytraps to butterworts, these incredible carnivorous plants feed on everything from insects to mice to stay alive.

Source: PR in Your Pajamas

As a way to cope with life in environments ridden with poor soil quality, carnivorous plants have evolved to supplement their diets with animal organisms. While most of these plants capture, kill and consume insects, some have been known to eat small rodents like mice. Here are five types of carnivorous plants that will leave your head spinning.

Carnivorous Plants: Drosera

Source: The New York Botanical Garden

Species from the drosera genus are often called sundews since they, as you might imagine, appear as if they’re covered in dew. Attracting unsuspecting insects with this “dew”–which is actually a sticky, digestive enzyme–drosera plants are able to ensnare and even digest their prey. These plants are common in nutrient-deficient places like bogs and sandy beaches. Nearly 200 different species of drosera plants have been identified.

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Source: Wikipedia

Source: The Conservation Report

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