*writing botany textbook* Some of the most interesting carnivorous pitcher plant species are native to Borneo and Indonesia. Many of these are endangered and face an increasing number of obstacles, including climate change, habitat loss, and poaching. However, Indonesian species and chadlike apex predator Nepenthes inermis, mucus lord of the Sumatran rainforest, is legally well protected by its government and is rated ‘least concern’ on the IUCN redlist. By capturing its prey in a dense and sticky viscous goop that sits at the bottom of the pitcher, it can flip to dump out rainwater making the pitcher top-heavy without releasing any living or dead partially-digested insects (deserving adversaries) from their hellish slime prison. This also serves to deliver a moment of empty hope to the afflicted. Critics may call this ‘cruel’, ‘a medieval torture method for bugs’, and ‘distracting from the real and dire problems of endangered pitcher plants in the region’, but they are wrong.
You may have seen this image floating around recently. It's a nice laugh but I'm here to explain how it's inaccurate and why exactly the Venus Flytrap choses violence:
Most plants (if not all) that are green utilize the sun through their chlorophyll and photosynthesis. This gives them energy to produce and store plant sugars for them to consume.
This is fine and dandy but a plant can not survive off of sugar alone, they usually need a source of Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus (as well as a few other things like calcium, magnesium, etc). And these nutrients are typically taken from the soil for the plant to use.
But the Venus fly trap and other Carnivorous plants live in soils that aren't nutrient rich. But you know what *is* nutrient rich? Insects and other small animals. So they have evolved to trap and digest small critters in order to make up for the lack of nutrients in the ground.
Nowadays you can buy a carnivorous plant from the store, so you'd think you'd be able to put them in nutrient rich soil and have them not have to worry about catching bugs, right?
Mineral rich soils will actually burn the roots of carnivorous plants. So a lot of people keep their CPs on sand or a sphagnum moss mixture! My pitcher plants love full sun and being soaked to the brim during the spring and summer months.
The Venus Fly Trap is a carnivorous plant native to wetlands in North and South Carolina. Usual prey for this plant includes insects and arachnids.
The Venus Fly Trap attracts prey using sweet nectar. When insects come to feed trigger hairs cause an electrical charge to close the trap, the plants interlocking 'teeth' form a cage. As the insect continues to struggle the trap seals and digestive enzymes dissolve the prey's soft tissues. The trap absorbs the soupy mixture and, after about a week, the trap reopens.
Like many people stuck at home during quarantine, I decided to pick up an old hobby that I’ve been neglecting for years. I was enamored with carnivorous plants as a kid and this year I decided to explore growing these plants in depth, rather than just accidentally killing every flytrap my mom bought little eleven year old me.
I’ve had success growing pitcher plants and fly traps, but the true jewel in my savage garden is my little sundew. I’ve completely fallen in love with this bizarre plant! After doing some research on the genus of these plants (Drosera), I’ve learned that I can’t call myself the Sundew’s #1 fan; that honor belongs to one Charles Darwin. As it turns out, Darwin was obsessed with these plants. To the point that he wrote in 1860: "I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species."
To better understand Darwin’s obsession, let’s look at some of the super unique things about this genus!
Drosera is one of the largest groups of carnivorous plants, with almost 200 different species!
Sundew leaf surfaces carry mucilaginous glands that are used to lure, capture, and digest insects. Bugs land on the sweet smelling secretions and become entrapped, drowning in digestive enzymes that the plant releases as the insect struggles.
These are the only plants with leaves that are considered tentacles! The sticky tentacles are extremely sensitive and can move in response to contact with prey items. It’s believed that this movement is accomplished by the release of a hormone (called auxin) that alters the pH of individual cell walls. The sudden reduction in pH allows for an increase in cell volume. As cells expand, the sundew tentacles bend towards the source of the action potential as a result. Genius!
Like any other carnivorous plants, sundews thrive best in moist habitats with acidic soil. You can often find them in bogs, muskegs, and similar damp environments.
I highly encourage any plant enthusiasts to look into keeping plants from this awesome genus! My little sundew (named Darwin of course) has been such a bright spot in an otherwise challenging year.