Carnivorous Plants - Venus Fly Trap, Pitcher Plant & Plant Care

Carnivorous plants are simply plants that obtain – in part or whole – the nutrients they require by way of ensnaring then digesting insects.

There are five carnivorous plant families that have evolved in a way that allows them to attract and trap various species of insects - though there are now around 630 variations that grow natively around the world.

Carnivourous Plants

Snap Traps: they use a swift leaf closing mechanism.

Flypaper Traps: these produce a sticky substance on the leaf surface.

Pitfall Traps: use a tubular type leaf with a small amount of digestive enzyme in the base.

Lobster Pot Traps: small chamber-like leaves – that are difficult to exit therefore encourages the prey forwards

Bladder Traps: suck prey in by way of using a bladder

Generally you can buy carnivorous plants - or seeds – at either specialist plant stores or at some of the regular garden/house plant stockists. Most if not all will also include information regarding carnivorous plant care and there are in fact several carnivorous plant society groups that you can join or access for information.

Venus Fly Trap

Venus Fly Trap In Action

Venus Fly Trap - Dionaea muscipula

The most commonly known of the carnivorous plants is the Venus Fly Trap. This species is almost extinct within its native environment. They initially attract their prey via a syrupy, sweet smelling nectar. On the leaf surface there are sensitive trigger hairs that – once they’ve been triggered – close, thus ensnaring its victim.

It then releases digestive enzymes that break down the unfortunate insect and several days later it re-opens the leaf once again.

Plant Care: The Venus Fly Trap is easy to grow and should be kept in brightly lit conditions. Moisture is important as they fare best in a humid environment. Better watered with either collected rainwater or distilled water – they are sensitive to chemicals.

Active growing season is May to September.

Waterwheel Plant

Waterwheel Plant - Aldrovanda Vesiculosa

Lesser known than the Venus Fly Trap - the Waterwheel Plant is nevertheless an impressive carnivorous plant in its own right. It is similar to the Venus, in that is has trigger hairs on its leaf surface – though it’s found underwater.

It resembles a wheel in shape – hence the name – and the leaf closes around the prey once it’s stepped upon the trigger hairs. Again, digestive enzymes are then released and the prey is slowly consumed.

Plant Care: Not an easy carnivorous plant to keep and better for the hobbyist. They need to be submerged in water in order to survive – for e.g. a tank that also includes a filter to prevent the collection of algae.

They need light as well as CO2 injection. They do, however, multiply rapidly if kept in the right conditions.

 

Sundew Plant

Sundews - an easy to care for carnivorous plant - from the Fly Paper Trap variety.
Sundews - an easy to care for carnivorous plant - from the Flypaper Trap variety.

Sundew Plant - Drosera

There’s roughly 130 different species of the Sundew. However they are all rather attractive in terms of aesthetics and remain as deadly to insects as other carnivorous plants. They are indigenous all over the globe and all use a sticky substance to trap insects.

The Sundew plants tend to have tentacle like protuberances on the head – this is the part of the plant that traps insects.

Plant Care: A relatively easy carnivorous plant to care for. They should be kept in bright light or filtered direct light. They need to have humid conditions and as with all carnivorous plants – they require careful watering.

Again, distilled or rain water is best. They die off during winter but still need a little water. They are especially suitable in a terranium environment.

 

Butterwort Plant - Pinguicula primuliflora

This plant is similar to the Sundew, in that it uses a similar secretion to trap insects prior to digesting them. There are about 80 species of Butterwort and they tend towards fleshy leaves with long stemmed flowers that grow above and away from the ‘paper trap’ part of the plant. They can be found in Europe, South America, Central America and Asia.

Plant Care: Considered another fairly easy carnivorous plant to keep. Moist conditions, careful watering (distilled/rain water) and a fair amount of sunlight – though not direct. They are relatively tolerant regarding temperature changes though nothing too drastic.

They do have a dormant growth period – as with their carnivorous cousins. Another plant capable of living in a terrarium environment but they fare better when the terrarium remains unsealed.

N: American Pitcher Plant

A beautiful but deadly plant.
A beautiful but deadly plant.

Pitcher Plants

North American Pitcher Plant - Sarracenia

Generally, pitfall trap plants have slender, tubular leaves. The insect enters at the top and is attracted by an almost irresistible nectar. Once inside – the insect is trapped by the downward pointing hairs and the plant has claimed another victim.

The North American Pitcher plant is beautiful in terms of colour and considered as relatively easy to cultivate and care for.

Plant Care: Careful watering – as with all carnivorous plants – and they prefer a few hours per day of good sunlight; though will thrive ok in a shadowed area. They can and do grow in boggy conditions though they prefer an ideal temperature of between 60 to 80º.

They become dormant during winter months and old or dead leaves need cutting from the plant. A plant that can be easily repotted in the spring but this must be undertaken before new growth fully restarts.

Tropical Pitcher Plant

Known to man as the Monkey Cup plant.
Known to man as the Monkey Cup plant.

Tropical Pitcher Plant - Nepenthes Miranda

The Tropical Pitcher – or Monkey Cup – plant grows in Australia and Southeast Asia. Natively it hangs from trees and has many similarities with the American Pitcher. Again it initially attracts insects by way of a pungent smell - that then soon find themselves trapped in the bottom of the tubular leaves.

The digestive enzymes used by this species will break down an insect within a matter of hours.

Plant Care: They require more care than the American Pitcher and are best kept in a manner similar to that of orchids. Best grown in a green house and within a hanging basket type environment.

Bright light – though not direct and use distilled water or collected rain water. Use ceramic or plastic pots – minerals from clay pots can kill the plant. Require a minimum temperature of around 60º and regular misting.

Cobra Lily

Aptly named - this plant resembles a Cobra about to strike.
Aptly named - this plant resembles a Cobra about to strike.

Cobra Lily Traps Fly

Cobra Lily - Darlingtonia Californica

Similar in appearance to the Pitcher genus – though Lobster Trap plants use the hood that grows above the tubular leaves to stun or unbalance the insects as they try to exit. Once the insect hits the hood they fall into the base of the leaves – and are digested in due course.

Native to America they can be found in boggy areas and have a semi transparent appearance due to the spots that grow on the hood of the plant and towards the top of the leaves.

Plant Care: Grow well on patios and terraces though direct sunlight can ‘over heat’ them. Remove indoors if you suffer a sever temperature drop during winter months. Require a good supply of water – that should always be cold.

The roots of this particular carnivorous plant must be kept at a constantly low temperature.

Parrot Pitcher Plant

Colourful yet deadly - and grows horizontal to the ground.
Colourful yet deadly - and grows horizontal to the ground.

Meat Eating Plants - Aimed At Children

Parrot Pitcher Plant - Sarracenia Psittacina

Despite the name – this is a Lobster Trap plant. It differs from the pitcher in that its trapping mechanism works like other Sarracenia (Lobster Traps) species. Its name is due to the fact that the top of the plant resembles the head of a parrot and it uses mainly colour to attract insects.

It’s generally quite a small carnivorous plant and its tubular leaves are horizontal, as opposed to upright like the Cobra Lily.

Plant Care: Again these plants grow well outdoors. Better potted as opposed to ground planted. During winter months the Parrot Pitchers’ growth rate will slow down and it will eventually become dormant – as is typical of many carnivorous plants.

Its leaf edges will discolour, though this is normal. It also requires its roots to be kept damp so as to prevent the soil – and roots – from dehydrating.

 

Ultricularia Sandersonii

Known as the 'deadly bunnies'!
Known as the 'deadly bunnies'!

9. Bladderwort Plant – Utricularia Sandersonii

There are many Utricularia variations and this information relates to one of the easiest to cultivate and grow – the Utricularia Sandersonii. Unlike many of the carnivorous plant genus none of the Utricularia species appear to have easy to remember names. There’s roughly 230 species of this variety and they are found widely dispersed across the globe.

They can be either aquatic, epiphytic or terrestrial. They all have ‘bladder’ type traps that are pressurised and contain a trap-door mechanism.

Plant Care:

This species will do especially well placed within a greenhouse or conservatory. They don’t necessarily require a high temperature but do need a lot of water – as with other similar plants.

They develop beautiful but small lavender coloured flowers all year round and are happy with being flooded from time to time.

Conclusion

Although this guide isn’t comprehensive, the intention was to offer basic information and a taster regarding the many varieties of carnivorous plants available – as well as trying to provide a plant care guide particular to each listed species. There is a wealth of information on the internet and the links provided should help the prospective buyer on choosing which plant/s to buy and also how to cultivate and care for them correctly.

On a final note – important information that is relevant to most if not all carnivorous plants:

Always use distilled or rain water – these plants are highly sensitive to chemicals and many people make the mistake of watering them from the tap.

Never use fertiliser – they simply do not require it.

Don’t over-handle your plant – due to their nature they are very sensitive and too much handling can cause them to die.

Don’t be tempted to feed your plant with insects – let nature take its course.


Prepare the pot well – the recommended potting blend is roughly 40% perlite and 60% moss – preferably spagnum moss

Avoid using clay pots – plastic or ceramic glazed pots are best.

Copyright © AJ Thompson - 06/04/09. All Rights Reserved.

More by this Author


Comments 54 comments

Haunty profile image

Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

Nice species. :) Unfortunately, frog-eating too. :(

I saw a documentary the other day. They showed how the venus fly trap actually dies after 3 or 4 snapping.

I liked this hub very much. Thanks, frog!


lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

Most importantly, can I eat one? And if I can, is there one that'll make me funky? 'cause lord knows we've not enough doorways to new perceptions. ;D


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

Nicely done Hub. I sure could use a mosquito-eating plant during Summer - and yet there's something that seems kind of "mean" about a carnivorous plant. :)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Haunty - I don't how you or anyone else gets through reading this article ... unless you're interested in the plants. Was hard to put together and done in answer to a request. Still, I hope it works and is relelvant to those who wish to know more!

lxxy - no don't eat one. They probably don't taste very nice ...

Lisa - hey :) I don't know if they're mean. Buy one and see ... follow the guidelines - I don't see how you can go wrong!


Haunty profile image

Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

Well, I think carnivorous plants catch the attention of many. It was easy to read through because of the layout you created. I read a short passage and then looked at the picture next to it pondering how the plant works.

It must have been hard to write. I couldn't have done it. I've been struggling to write a hub on Natural History Museums for weeks. I have a bunch of great pictures. The hub is already 75 in unpublished, but the writing part is bitter.

Do you like these plants?


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Could do with a venus fly trap now. There are some weird and wacky plants here. The pitcher one looks scary


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Haunty - hey again ;) Thanks for that ... it was difficult to write because as with you - info is all over the place. It's quite confusing and I used the best of what I'd researched and collated it here. The links I've added (for eg) are the ones worth looking at IMO.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Ethel - hey :) Having looked an literally hundreds and hundreds of the plants it's fair to say that many are in fact incredibly beautiful. Don't let the fact that they ingest insects put you off.

In particular those from the Drosera genus and a fair few of the Pitcher variety are quite stunning - in terms of colour. And many are rather small - I think a lot of people imagine a Triffid like plant. Trust me, they're not!


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Great hub -- I was just about to compliment you on the layout when I saw that Haunty beat me to it. Good use of research and photos.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Teresa - thankyou very much! It was some effort and I'm glad to find that it shows :)


Janetta 7 years ago

Dear botanist/frog,

I kill every plant I touch. What do you recommend??

Signed,

Plantkilller


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Dear Plantkiller/JANETTA - don't touch plants.

Do you kill anything else simply by touch?


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

They are the most beautiful plant!

Watch out for Janetta, they don't call her the Black Widow for nuthin'!


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Candie - many are beautiful but some are a bit strange looking ... And Janetta is fine - providing she doesn't touch you ;)


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

Froggy -- AWESOME article! Excellent layout. The info is great -- could have used it about 3 months ago....my daughter's venus didn't quite make it over the winter months. But, now we can replace it and make sure it thrives! By the way, great to be welcomed back by one of your articles!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

J's M.O. is not a poison pen!! I'm so glad it wasn't you in that V.F.T.!!


Janetta 7 years ago

MWAH HA HAHA Black widow...I like it :)

Don't irk me or I'll touch you with my black thumb!!!

Dear frogotanist,

no. Well, only that one neighbor we had.... I mean, uh, no...only plants. :)

Signed,

Black widow/planktkiller


Haunty profile image

Haunty 7 years ago from Hungary

After all this I'm gonna buy one and call it Janetta. But I'm not gonna go anywhere near it. :)


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

frogdropping

This is an interesting read. There is a region here in the Philippines where venus fly traps abound. But recently it was found out that they are uprooted and sold illicitly - like, I think, exotic animals. Anyway, the place has been placed under state protection. And I've seen local documentaries on TV about them and my what big traps they are!

Enjoyed the read. Plants as "predators" - why not?


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

I have never been a fan of carnivorous plants. They always look icky icky ptang to me - and yes that is a scientific term!

Maybe I used to be an insect in a former life :D 

Great layout and integration of information though. I think Kevin must have written it! ;)


nazishnasim 7 years ago

Carnivorous plants ... very very interesting! :D

Frog : These plants get particularly attracted to smart a** frogs. Watch yer way out there!


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Beth - Thankyou! I think most make the mistake of overhandling and using tap water. From what I've discovered - they're best kept as they would be in their native habitat. I hope you have more success!

Candie - lol You think she has a M.O.? I don't think she's got the time ...

Janetta - 'frogotanist' lolol that did make me laugh!

Haunty - I think you're fine with Janetta ... just don't get too close!

Cris - I'd love to see 'wild' carnivorous plants. There is in fact a lot of conseravtion going on round and about relating to these plants. Changing enviroments, pilfering (as you said) and so on so it's good to hear that in your neck of the woods they're doing something about it.

And some of these plants are rather big! Some trap mice for eg!

Shiba - hey there! I'm not so much a fan as I just prefer easy plants. My brother is quite into them. He named his venus fly trap ...

Naz - hey :) Yes I know! There are some bigger venus fly trap species that shoud probably rename 'venus frog trap' - true fact!


Beverly 7 years ago

I had a Venus Fly Trap when my son was 3. He was fascinated with its closings. Took him two days to kill it.


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I had no idea about some of these and I've seen them at botanical gardens and whatnot. Great hub frogdropping.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Beverly - woooo lol! Poor meat eating predator plant ;)

Frieda - hey :) I'm one over the eight right now (and completely unashamed and no doubt making nonsense up as I go along but hey ho and all that) I didn't have much of a cloo either. Now I'm a semi-professional simply due to the amount of time i spent looking for the inof. Thankyou for stopping by!


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

frogdropping

This is an interesting read I am now scared .

Long time you did visit my hub How are you doing?


Agus Fanani 7 years ago

Those plants are endangered so people should be aware of their conservation as well. Very good hub, so informative.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

Lgali - hey :) Thanks - and don't be scared ... they're only plants!

Agus - You're right. There are many conservation efforts underway around the world regarding Carnivorous plant species. There's a fair bit of info here: http://www.carnivorousplants.org/conservation/alli... regarding who's doing what and why. Thanks for pointing that out :)


travelerhubs profile image

travelerhubs 7 years ago from USA

Nature never ceases to amaze me...there is so much to learn. Interesting hub.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago Author

traveler - Thankyou and yes ... nature is pretty amazing. Though I have a little issue regarding spiders ...


jose 6 years ago

were you buy one


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

José - there are some web sites in the article, plus most good garden centres sell them :)


wordsword profile image

wordsword 6 years ago

Very nice, i knew about some of them but this is the first time i am seeing some new plants as well and along with videos. But i really pity those insects. Even though out of context but still asking a question what about those tempting advertisements that are on a trapping spree, what do you think about them.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Hey there - I'm a bit unsure of what you're asking WW - you'll have to pop back and clarify! Then I can asnwer :)


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Great hub. I have a dionea four years old that remains all year round outside. I've always found carnivorous plant quite interesting, they show us that some plants have a kind of intelligence. Like dolphins compared to chickens.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

hynodude - good to see someone that's owned carnivorous plants. They're far easier to keep than most folks realise. And interesting concept ... never thought ofthem in that way!


SidneyMorgan profile image

SidneyMorgan 6 years ago from Australia

Such an interesting hub! I had no idea there were so many carnivorous plants. I've had venus fly traps a couple of times and the kids love catching flies and then feeding them to the plant. Thanks for the great hub!


mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

I hadn't realized there were so many varieties of carnivorous plant - with many different 'catching' or 'trapping' mechanisms at work. These are really quite amazing plants, indeed! I don't know that I'd like to get one or that I'd be good at caring properly for such a plant, but a few acquaintances I've known have talked about their venus fly trap plants and I've found their experiences interesting. By contrast, I found myself thinking of the little "victims" who get caught in the traps/mechanisms...and decided I'd better just write a comment before I thought the latter idea through... (thinking that imagining little critters being digested by enzymes wouldn't be a very good thought process to go through this late at night)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

mythbuster - I enjoyed writing this hub, way back when. It was quite the moment of discovery for me too. However, like you, I tend to feel a little sorry for the carnivorous plant victims!


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States

This is a really good hub! I have one on carnivorous plants, and yours is definitely more in depth than mine. :) I think I will make a link to yours regarding the plant care!


kingkhan78 profile image

kingkhan78 6 years ago

cool hub so keep it


taiba imam  5 years ago

this is very good thing i have read in my life.what a information written.


taiba imam 5 years ago

it is fantastic


Alan Niemies profile image

Alan Niemies 5 years ago from Paraná - Brazil

Great hub, frog!

Some years ago I bought a Dionaea, but as you said, they are very, very sensitive and in about two months, my plant died. I think I'll buy another one. They are fascinating!


infoels1 profile image

infoels1 5 years ago

i like these comments.


kiwi91 profile image

kiwi91 5 years ago from USA

Pretty interesting. I knew there were other carnivorous plants, but I wasn't familiar with any of them. I think I'd be too tempted to feed insects to a Venus Fly Trap in my own home. Anyone else?


celeBritys4africA profile image

celeBritys4africA 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Scary! But the carnivor plant is eatable? :)


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Wonderful article, I had no idea there were so many varieties! I've had loads of fun with the Venus fly trap, though was never able to keep them alive for more than a few months tops. I see the Norther Pitcher Plants all the time in Minocqua and Eagle River Wisconsin, I've even seen the specific species of spider that lives inside them!

Well done, great piece!

Ben


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

parrot pitcher plant is great,Thanks for the nice collection of tencarnivorousplants


arusho profile image

arusho 4 years ago from University Place, Wa.

Cool hub, I didn't know they could eat frogs!


annie 4 years ago

dear,gode/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////can you show me a pitcher of wats in side of the venus?////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////love,////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////annie, brian, & alex.


Plantastic profile image

Plantastic 4 years ago

Great Hub! Another fun plant I grow is the TickleMe Plant. The TickleMe Plant will close its leaves and lower its branches when Tickled and it won't hurt a fly!


pepe 4 years ago

i bet this information is fake


vibesites profile image

vibesites 2 years ago from United States

I need these plants. Maybe I'll place them outside my kitchen window. :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working