When you hear the phrase “carnivorous plants” you likely think of the iconic Venus flytrap but were you aware that there are 582 other species of carnivorous plants and counting? About 3 species a year since 2000 have been discovered to be carnivorous. The fun doesn’t stop there. Snap traps like those utilized by the flytrap are only one of the ways carnivorous plants ensnare their food. Other trapping mechanisms include rolled leaves containing a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria called pitfall traps; flypaper traps, where leaves are covered in a sticky mucilage; bladder traps that generate an internal vacuum to suck in prey; and inward-pointing hairs that force prey towards a digestive organ known as a lobster-pot trap or eel trap. Here are just a few of the cunning carnivores we have and some fun facts to feed your carnivorous need.
Belonging to the butterwort genus, this righteous rosette sports succulent leaves up to 4 inches long that use the flypaper trap technique to catch its quarry. One of the most common Butterworts in cultivation, it owes its success to its attractive flower sets of up to seven on a single stem; each opening one at a time so you can savor the flavor.
The purple pitcher plant is the most common and broadly distributed member of its genus but that doesn’t mean it isn’t unique. Populating an impressive habitat range from northern Florida to western Alberta, this colorful carnivore is the only member of its genus to inhabit cold temperate climates. Relying on the pitfall strategy to trap its prey, this sociable specimen develops digestive relationships with local invertebrates and bacteria offering housing in exchange for support breaking down its sustenance.
Nepenthes ‘Bloody Mary’
A wicked hybrid with an equally wicked name, this tropical pitcher plant is a vine that grows up to 18 feet long. As it climbs trees on its hunt for light it produces blood red pitchers containing viscous digestive fluid. The pitchers in the upper parts of the plant aren’t just there for meals either. They grow a loop in their tendrils to latch on to nearby supports helping the plant find a place in the sun. Some like it hot and Bloody Mary is one of them! It’s happy to live outside in the summer, soaking up the heat.
As if a plant that eats insects wasn’t alien enough, the cape sundew takes it to a whole other level. Its octopus-like leaves are covered in sticky digestive glands that roll lengthwise towards the center when an insect is trapped. If the victim is decomposed enough that the plant can’t gain further nutrients, the leaf and tentacles return to their original position. Objectively one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow, it continues to impress as a summer stunner with upwards of 50 pale-violet flowers.
Truly one of a kind, the Venus flytrap is the only species in its genus and is native exclusively to the coastal bogs of North and South Carolina. Sensitively snappy, the triggers for a trap to shut need only a tenth of a second’s worth of contact to be registered by the plant. So as not to be tricked, the leaves require two triggers within twenty seconds of each other to activate the trap. To quote a famous carnivore flick, “clever girl.”