Fascinating, exotic and just plant weird to many, Carnivorous plants are a favorite among kids and collectors! Defined by plants that "derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans". Plain and simple, they eat bugs and sometimes other things.
These plants have evolved to live in low nutrient conditions, where the soil is very poor and lacks the things other plants need to survive, especially Nitrogen. Many of these plants are native to bog areas, but carnivorous plants can be found on every continent in the world, except Antarctica. Many still are Epiphytic or Semi-epiphytic.
Because these plants are suited to low nutrient living conditions, distilled water is a must. Minerals and chemicals found in even filtered, bottled and purified waters will poison the plant, and eventually lead to death. Additionally, never fertilize your Carnivorous plants. It is a certain death sentence, as all of their nutrients will be absorbed by the bugs they "eat".
There are 5 main trapping mechanisms that separate different types of carnivorous plants.
Pitfall traps, such as Pitcher Plants, like Nepenthes and Sarracenia, trap their prey in "pitchers" or rolled, cylindrical leaves that contain a digestive enzyme or bacteria in the water. Insects go in and can not get out, therefor drowning in and being broken down by the enzymes or bacteria in the water.
Flypaper traps, like Pinguicula, use a sticky glue like substance that coats their leaves. This tacky mucilage traps and hold insects to the death. Enzymes then break down the body of the insects and feed the plant. Many flypaper trap plants make great additions to houseplant collections, as they can significantly help with fungal gnat issues.
Probably one of the best known carnivorous plants is the Venus flytrap. They utilize a snap trap method to capture and eat their prey. When an insect lands inside the trap of a Venus flytrap, the two leaves of the trap will snap shut rapidly when the tiny hairs on the lobes are trigged. As the insect moves inside the leaves, the two sides will close tighter, resulting in a sort of stomach and will then break down and digest the bug.
Bladder traps and Lobster-pot traps are the other 2 categories of Carnivorous plants, but are not commonly seen in houseplants. They are more commonly found in aquatic situations. Bladder traps create a sort of vacuum effect inside the bladder where their prey is sucked in to and unable to escape. Lobster-pot traps utilize a sort of pitcher, and allow prey to enter, but not leave. The exit is hard to find or protected with inward-pointed hairs.
No matter the trapping mechanism, carnivorous plants are exciting and fun to keep. They do not generally require much care and can help with household insect issues. Bright, filtered light is best, so many carnivorous plants can take up residence in many rooms of your home to guard against flies and gnats. Humidity is the only real trick with most carnivorous plants found as houseplants. Nepenthes, especially, require high humidity levels, so humidifiers and regular spraying with distilled water is a must to maintain their health and keep the pitchers growing.
Another benefit to keeping Carnivorous plants is that they seldom see any pest issues. Nepenthes can sometimes attract Mealy Bugs, but for the most part, they are pets free.
Repotting carnivorous plants does not have to happen very frequently at all, as their roots are shallow and the majority of their nutrients will come from the bugs they catch.
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