Venus Flytrap

A young friend has asked me to post about the Venus flytrap, a carnivorous plant that is native to our region.  I remember on one of our beach trips walking on a trail where signage indicated we might see the Venus flytrap which is found in North and South Carolina, primarily within a 60 mile perimeter of Wilmington.  This unusual plant speaks to me of the amazing diversity within Creation.

Photos above show the open flytrap and the plant's small flower.   Dionaea muscipula catches its prey—chiefly insects and spiders—with a trapping structure triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces. When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves contacts a hair, the trap prepares to close, snapping shut only if another contact occurs within approximately twenty seconds of the first strike. Triggers may occur if one-tenth of the insect is within contact. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value, and the plant will only begin digestion after five more stimuli to ensure it has caught a live bug worthy of consumption. If the prey is too small it will escape and the trap opens again within 12 hours.  If the prey squirms vigorously this triggers faster digestion.

venus flytrap animation.gif

Most carnivorous plants selectively feed on specific prey. This selection is due to the available prey and the type of trap used by the organism. With the Venus flytrap, prey is limited to beetles, spiders and other crawling arthropods. In fact, the Dionaea diet is 33% ants, 30% spiders, 10% beetles, and 10% grasshoppers, with fewer than 5% flying insects. When the trap is shut it seals forming a "stomach" and digestive enzymes are released. 

Carnivorous plants specialized to survive in places that were poor in nutrients like bogs. You can purchase a Venus flytrap but keeping it is more like having a pet than a plant in some ways.  It's important to know the source of any purchased native plants, especially those that are vulnerable.  In the case of the Venus flytrap, it is a felony to remove it from a natural area in North Carolina. (summarized from Wikkipedia where you can learn more)

There's a local nursery that specializes in carnivorous plants, owned by Michael Szesze. There are more than 650 carnivorous plants in the world and Michael Szesze guesses he’s got about “four to five hundred” of them growing outside his house in Derwood, Maryland.   Szesze is a science educator who has created a business from his life-long interest in carnivorous plants.  His website has useful information if you want to create a bog garden with carnivorous plants. It also includes some free educational kits related to the Venus flytrap.

For info on other interesting plants and animals that live in our region, select "Our Nature" from the Eartheast main menu.