We’re sure you’ve heard of carnivorous animals, but carnivorous plants? There are many species of plants that feast on animals and protozoa as a source of nutrients. Lucky for us humans, none of these plants can feast on us – although they might try, if you put your fingers close enough! These are 11 carnivorous plants that feast on critters, so next time you’re growing and maintaining your garden, you might want to check out if you have a few of these already in your backyard.
There are over 500 species of carnivorous plants out there, located all around the world. Some plants grow in tropical areas, boggy areas, or dry areas. There are both land and aquatic species of carnivorous plants. Many of them have adopted to growing in poor soil with low nitrogen, which is why they feast on insects and critters to get the nutrients they aren’t getting from the soil. Although these plants get their energy from photosynthesis like any other plant, they get their nutrients from the insects using one of the different trapping mechanisms.
There are several types of trapping mechanisms from which these plants capture their prey. The main ones are: lobster traps, with inward pointing hairs; snap traps, where leaves snap rapidly to capture the prey; flypaper traps, which uses a sticky substance to trap the insect; bladder traps, which use a vacuum mechanism to capture insects; and pitfall traps, where the insect falls into a pool of enzymes.
This is probably the most well-known carnivorous plant out there. Have you ever placed your finger inside the mouth of a Venus flytrap and watched it close? It’s because it thought you were food! It catches insects and arachnids when they activate the tiny hairs of the plant. There’s a mechanical trigger if the insect activates the hairs twice – within twenty seconds of one another. This is a way for the plant to save its energy so it can continue to grow, eat, and absorb nutrients. They can live in poor soil and get healthier from feasting on insects. They live mostly in swampy lands in South and North Carolina.
California Pitcher Plant
Also known as the cobra plant, this vicious plant loves to munch on insects. The plant lures the insects inside with its color and nectar before it makes its move. It has vivid green stalks and a bulbous cap with wing shaped leaves. The wing shaped leaves are why it’s referred to as the cobra plant. It can grow up to three feet tall and changes color with age. It grows in Oregon and California, where cool nights set the perfect environment for the plant. When the insect enters the bulb, it becomes disoriented and does not know how to exit. The plant dissolves the insect and consumes it for nutrients.
The round-leaved sundew is found in bogs, fens, moss, and marshes. It prefers a cooler climate and does not survive in temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They only need to eat one critter per month, usually mosquitoes, butterflies, or dragonflies. Although they don’t need insects to survive, the plants that do capture insects grow the largest and most abundant. The insect lands on the sticky sundew leaf and gets trapped as it struggles to escape. The leaf curls up and eats the insect as enzymes digest and dissolve the insect for its nutrients. The wind carries the leftovers from the meal away.
Asian Pitcher Plant
This is a tropical carnivorous plant that grows at an elevation of 1,000-2,000 meters. It has narrow leaves and plump pitchers. Its large mouth and bulbous shape make it one of the most interesting of the carnivorous plants in terms of looks, and it loves to eat insects like beetles, ants, wasps, moths, and flies. It’s a plant that can live for a long time if you care for it correctly. They’re also known to eat vertebrates such as mice and rats. There are tons of different shapes and varieties of this species of plant.
One of the most popular collectors’ plants, the cephalotus follicularis, needs a little bit more attention than other carnivorous plants. Insects are attracted to the vibrant color of the plant, making it easy for them to obtain food. Their pitcher-like leaves are used as a trap for their food. Insects slide on the surface of the plant and down the well, where they’re then digested with enzymes. Insects cannot escape the pitcher due to its shape and will eventually drown from exhaustion when they try.
Purple Pitcher Plant
Although this plant is small, it packs a big punch. It’s deceiving and plays tricks on its prey in order to eat. It’s the slyest of all the carnivorous plants. It has a veiny hood and is burgundy in color, which attracts insects at a distance for prey. The insect crawls inside of the leaf and down into a pool of liquid, where digestive enzymes start breaking down the insect. These plants don’t only feast on insects; they’re also known to eat amphibians like salamanders. It loves growing in boggy areas and is most prevalent in certain areas in Canada.
The Common Butterwort is a plant with a vibrant purple flower. Its funnel shape helps attract insects for food. The hairs on the leaves are sticky, and once the insects land on the leaves, they’re stuck. They can survive without eating insects, but they need insects such as bumblebees to visit so they can pollinate.
One of the most efficient carnivorous plants out there, the Dewy Pine, can capture and consume a copious number of insects. Insects flock to their leaves, which is why it’s so easy for them to capture prey. Their leaves resemble pine needles, which insects land on. A thick, gluey substance traps the insect and eventually drowns the insect so it cannot breathe. Rain washes away the remains of the insects and the process starts over.
Crimson Pitcher Plant
The stunning white pigments of the Crimson Pitcher Plant make it one of the most beautiful carnivorous plants out there. It’s embellished with green or red veins and has a large lip. They grow mainly in sunny locations and prefer damp over dry climates. This plant comes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. They attract many flying insects, wasps in particular. If you have a bog garden, these will make a great addition, as it’s the perfect environment for them to thrive in.
The Spoon-Leaved Sundew is a breathtaking plant with an interesting design. It has tons of tentacles like an octopus, red traps, and a flat shape. They’re mainly scarlet red in color. Insects barely have time to escape once they land on the plant, as it can trap it within ten seconds. Variations of the species can include larger or smaller tentacles and variations of the color of the leaves, such as red, pale pink, or green.
Hooded Pitcher Plant
The most notable part of the Hooded Pitcher Plant is the tiny white dots located on the pitcher. This is what tempts critters to crawl inside the mouth of the Hooded Pitcher Plant so it can feast on its food. The insects crawl up the nectar path and into the hood. They try to escape from the translucent areas on the leaf and end up tiring when they cannot escape. Once they’re at the base of the leaf, the plant starts to digest it for food and eventually absorbs the nutrients from the insect.
Attenborough’s Pitcher Plant
Named after Sir David Attenborough, this carnivorous plant is shaped like a bell and has a vibrant red and black ring around its lip. The stem can grow to be as much as 1.5 liters in volume. The nectar lures insects to the leaves, where a slippery surface causes them to slip inside. It then fills with digestive enzymes to eat the insect and absorb the nutrients. Mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs on top of the water that collects on the top of the plant. Some eggs fall into the plant, which helps it sustain its nutrient level.
There are many different varieties of carnivorous plants to choose from for your backyard garden. Depending on your geographical location and climate, you’ll be able to choose a plant that is best suited for your garden environment. Many of these plants are a fun and exciting addition to any garden, where you can watch nature in action.
The variations in color and size of each species of plant can make it even more exciting to choose which plant you want to have in your backyard. You’ll have to take good care of these plants, some more than others. Once you learn the ins and outs as to how each plant thrives in its environment, you could have an entirely new species in your backyard – unlike any you’ve had before! Even if some of these aren’t already growing in your backyard, you might be able to find them at various botanist shops or specialist shops online.
Science News for Students. “Meat Eating Pitcher Plants that Feast on Baby Salamanders” https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/meat-eating-pitcher-plants-feast-baby-salamanders
Thoughtco. “Meet 12 Carnivorous Plants That Eat Everything From Insects to Mammals” https://www.thoughtco.com/plants-that-eat-animals-4118213
Wonderopolis. “Can Plants Eat Insects?” https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/plant-hunters