A quick guide to the carnivorous plants
The carnivorous plants are special types of plants that are different from the usual types of plants. As their name suggests, they are carnivorous because of the fact that they derive most of not their nutrients not from the soil, but from the bodies of the small animals that they catch and digest. Most of these small animals are insects and that is why the carnivorous plants are also often called insectivorous plants. In a sense they have advanced one or two steps up the food chain from being the eaten to the eater.
These types of plants catch their prey with the use of a variety of trapping mechanisms. Generally, the carnivorous plants are divided into five categories which pertain to each of the five basic traps that are used.
- Pitfall traps – These types of carnivorous plants are characterized by their folded and rolled up leaves that are designed to be able to contain water much like a pitcher or a sink. They attract prey with the use of beautiful colors and promises of nectar or shelter. The inside surface of the leaves are usually slippery for the unfortunate animals or insects which causes them to fall in the inside pool. Digestive juices or bacteria are then employed to be able to break down the ill-fated animal for consumption.
- Flypaper traps – The carnivorous plants that belong to this category possesses leaves that uses a type of sticky mucilage or glue. Any insect that lands on these leaves will be unable to leave since they will find themselves sticking to it. The leaves of some varieties also have a tendency to grow or curl towards the animal which greatly decreases any possibility of escape. Some examples of these types of plants include the sundew and the butterwort.
- Snap traps – There are only two known plants that make use of this type of mechanism and these include the Venus fly trap and the waterwheel plant. The leaves of these plants function much like a mousetrap or mantrap which closes up the moment an insect or small animal lands on it. This is due to the small hairs that are present on the leaves which trigger the snapping action in response to any stimulus made by an insect or small animal. The leaves then remain shut until the unfortunate animal is totally eaten or digested.
- Bladder or suction traps – These trapping mechanisms are found only on one particular type of plant called the bladderwort. Their leaves appear in the shape of a bladder which possesses a hinged door full of trigger hairs. Any insect that touches these hairs starts the suction action which sucks the prey deeper into the leaves where it will be digested.
- Lobster – pot traps – All of the carnivorous plants that use this type of trapping mechanism possess a chamber that is easy to enter but difficult to get out of. These is usually due to the presence of inward hair or bristles that forces the animal to move deeper into the leaf hoping to find another means to escape. Instead they are led to their doom and are digested.For more information on growing carnivorous plants, I recommend this excellent illustrated book by Barry Rice.