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By: Child Prodigy Peleh Wunder

Carnivorous plants are meat-eating plants that live in swampy areas where the soil is low in nutrients. These plants get the extra nutrients they need to survive by consuming insects and other small animals. There are many different types of carnivorous plants, and their methods of trapping and capturing their prey are quite remarkable.

The Venus Fly Trap

The Venus fly trap is a carnivorous plant that looks like a big mouth with teeth. It opens all the way up and waits for a creature, like a spider or a fly, to land on it. The “mouth” (trap) then closes around its prey, and the plant consumes it.

The Venus fly trap actually waits for the creature to crawl or move on it twice. The trap won’t close when the creature first lands on it, because it isn’t sure that it is an insect; it could have just been a leaf falling. But when the plant feels the creature again within a very short amount of time (twenty seconds) – that’s when it quickly closes in on its prey and begins the process of digesting it. Venus fly traps can mostly be found growing in the swamps of the Carolinas, but they have also been found in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and in northern Florida.

The Sundew

The sundew looks like a colorful flower or a very beautiful-looking stem, with dewdrops all over it, but the dewdrops are actually mucilage (like mucous) at the ends of the tentacles that the sundew uses to trap its prey. Flies and insects are attracted by the glistening, sticky droplets, but they soon find themselves stuck in them. The sundew then wraps up its victims in its tentacles and suffocates them in slime. Then it digests its prey and absorbs the nutrients.

The sundew has the ability to differentiate between flesh and other substances, and it only reacts to flesh.

The Pitcher Plant

Pitcher plants come in all shapes and sizes. These plants form whole pitchers out of their leaves, which is what they trap insects in. Larger pitcher plants could even trap frogs, snakes, mice, and birds!

Within its deeply folded leaves, thepitcher plant stores a sweet-smelling
nectar; this is what lures unsuspecting
prey into the plant’s mouth. But the plant’s rim is also coated in this slippery nectar, and as soon as the victim walks on and over the rim, it slips down into the pitcher. Unable to climb back out, the fallen creature flails helplessly, and eventually drowns, in the pool of nectar stored at the bottom of
the pitcher. This fluid contains chemicals that slowly munch and swallow the body of the prey until it dissolves completely, as the plant absorbs its much-needed nutrients.

The Waterwheel Plant

The waterwheel plant, scientifically known as Aldrovanda vesiculosa, is a predator plant that lives in the water. It traps and digests aquatic insects using a method similar to that of the Venus fly trap. Its leaves face outwards from the stem and snap shut on small water animals that trigger the long, sensitive hairs surrounding each leaf. Its snap-trap, which consists of two lobes that fold together, closes in 0.01 to 0.02 seconds, making it one of the fastest examples of plant movement in the entire plant kingdom!

Did You Know?

Insects are lured by many carnivorous plants’ odors. Some plants smell like sweet-tasting nectar, while others emit a smell of rotting meat.

Traits of a Carnivorous Plant

All carnivorous plants share
the following characteristics:

Prey must find its way into the trap, and is usually lured in by something tempting created by the plant.

Prey must be captured by the plant.

The prey must die while in the clutches of the plant.

The prey must be digested.

The nutrients from the prey must be absorbed by the plant.