All about Carnivorous Plants
There are many different types of plant out there and they are all so different.
Some have green leaves others have purple leaves.
Some grow Fruits other Vegetables.
Some plants need soil others only need a tall tree in the canopy to rest on and feed on the dust in the air for water and minerals.
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There is a completely different family of plants that after years of living in soil with no minerals developed traps, sticky pads and vacuums to trap small creatures. These are called Carnivorous plants and there are thought to be 625 species.
Carnivorous plants can only survive on rainwater, this is because the plants are used to no minerals in their soil and tap water has different minerals which damage the plant.
This family of Carnivorous plants ranges from the smallest at ground level to almost one metre tall.
The smaller Carnivorous plants feed on small insects like Fruit Flies but the bigger ones like the Venus Fly Trap and Pitcher plants have been found to feed on not only insects but small Frogs and Rodents.
Carnivorous plants attract their prey by giving off a scent like the nectar of a flower. This attracts creatures to the plant and when they land on the sticky surface they are trapped. There are many species of Carnivorous plant here are some of the main ones.
My favourite Carnivorous Plants
The Venus Fly Trap is a Herb that grows traps which open to show some small very sensitive hairs. When a Creature touches more than one of these hairs the trap shuts.
The Venus Fly Trap has teeth on the edges of its traps to stop the prey from escaping. If it catches a Creature that is too small it will release it because it will not produce a full meal. If it catches a Creature that is of the perfect size it will trap it immediately and produce enzymes to digest it. Read more about The Venus Fly Trap
The Sundews – Every Continent except Antarctica (over 170 species) The Sundew family look quite strange, most of them have long tentacle-like stems covered in sticky bubbles. These sticky bubbles are a digestive enzyme which the plant uses to trap and eat its prey.
The Sundews attract their prey through smell, once an Insect lands on the sticky stems it is usually trapped. The long stems then fold over to digest their prey. England has a native Carnivorous plant that you can find in marshy parts of Dartmoor from May till September.
The Pitchers produce a pitfall trap. At the top of the trap is an entrance that smells of sweet nectar but is also covered in a sticky, waxy layer which stops the Creature from escaping.
The Creature is lured into the trap because it cannot leave the way it came in and the transparent pool of water at the bottom looks like a way out.
The Creature then falls into the liquid which digests them and uses them as nutrients to stay alive.
The Bladderworts – Unlike other Carnivorous plants Bladderworts do their trapping above ground but underwater.
Bladderworts grow in water and very wet soil near to the bottom of their stems is an opening with sensitive hairs.
When an insect touches the hairs the opening closes and just like a vacuum the plant sucks the Insect straight up and eats it.
Are Carnivorous Plants Declining?
The Carnivorous Plant Decline
Carnivorous plants are one of nature’s marvels, these strange plants grow in the swampy lands in the Southern states of North America, Argentina, Europe and Asia. Carnivorous plants have evolved over time to live happily in the nutrient-deficient bogs by trapping their own food using sticky leaves, suction traps and jug like pitchers.
One of these plants Nepenthes Rajah has been found to have consumed rats and lizards. Unfortunately, they are struggling in some of their native environments. As with many specialist plants and insects, small populations become isolated and threatened by environmental change.
We are very lucky to have the worlds finest scientists researching the natural world and helping our green friends survive against losing their homes and fighting pollution.
These plants are very sensitive to environmental change as they prefer to live in soil with practically no nutrition.
In the last 30 years industry has grown and the impact of more cars, factories, houses and people is that certain elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous get into the soil.
The problem here is that they cannot grow in nutrient-rich soil so they are being polluted by the excess food.
A study in Sweden showed that plants affected by pollution caught fewer insects and grew slowly. It has been found that plants growing in more nitrogen-rich soil are preferring the soil nutrition over catching insects.
For very common and widespread species this may not be a problem but for the more isolated groups, it could be very damaging.
Unfortunately, we cannot stop the world expanding and big businesses producing pollution so what do we do?
One of the best ways for us to learn about and preserve plant genetics is for us to grow them at home and for those lucky enough to have the right climate grow them outdoors.