Carnivorous Plants Are Beautiful… and Ruthless!
Yes, carnivorous plants feast on creepy, crawly bug. Some species move on their own. But don’t get too squeamish. It can’t be denied: Carnivorous plants are drop dead gorgeous. And, with the right conditions, make an absolutely stunning addition to your garden.
Carnivorous plants come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and growing habits. Many are bog plants, thriving in places with standing water, or very wet soil. Why do they eat bugs rather than just enjoying photosynthesis and humus like their plant bretherin? Their carnivorous mechanisms are actually a genetic adaptation to allow them to live in places with nutrient-deficient soil. What they can’t find in the earth, they make up for in flies. There are over 630 species of known carnivores growing all over the world – some of them, Darlingtonia or “Cobra plant” for instance, even grow in Oregon!
We have our own little carnivorous bog in the nursery, and marvel in watching these exotic gems take care of the bugs. Some of our favorite species, pictured below, are Pitcher Plants, Sundew and, of course, Venus Flytraps.
How Do Carnivorous Plants Work?
How do they trap bugs? Carnivorous Plants can be active or passive, depending on the species. Here are the 5 main mechanisms that carnivorous plants use to get their extra protein:
- Pitfall traps – large pitcher-like structures (like on the Sarracenia, below) where bugs go in but can’t get out.
- Flypaper traps – sticky surfaces that catch flies just like fly-paper you get in the store.
- Snap traps – Everyone’s familiar with the famed Venus Flytrap, yes? Think locking jaws.
- Bladder traps – Suck in bugs with an internal vacuum. Seriously. Nature finds a way!
- Lobster-pot traps – Force bugs down the pipes with inward-pointing hairs.
How To Grow Carnivorous Plants
Here are a few tips on how to keep carnivorous plants alive, in or outdoors at your home.
- Keep them wet. Most commercially available carnivores are bog plants, after all. If growing in a pot, place this in a dish where you can allow 1/4 inch (or more) of standing water at all times. Water the dish when it becomes low rather than drenching the plant itself. The soil will absorb all that it needs
- Lots of light. These guys need 5 hours of direct sun per day to thrive. That’s tough to do in Portland even in summer, so you might want to move your carnivores outside for summer.
- Mineral-free water and soil. Remember – these guys are adapted to nutrient-deficient conditions. Too many minerals will harm your plant. Use distilled water and clean soil with lots of peat and sand.
- Let them go dormant. Many species are used to a winter dormancy period, and some even survive a freeze. Check your zone and the hardiness of the species to see what it needs during wintertime. Generally, reduce temperature, light and moisture for 3-6 months. Don’t be scared if they defoliate – come springtime, they’ll grow back stronger.
- Don’t feed them. In most circumstances, your plant should be able to forage plenty of bugs all by itself.
Carnivorous Plant Porn
These plants are just so photogenic, we couldn’t help but share a few glamour shots. Hope you enjoy!
Do you have your own carnivorous plants? Share your experience in the comments!