If you’ve exhausted your ‘to buy’ plant list and are looking for something a little different, you can’t get much more unique or out there than carnivorous plants. Shrouded in drama and mystery, these interesting beauties have evolved over hundreds and thousands of years to absorb nutrients from insects, rather than through the soil. Developing a range of interesting traps with different shapes, colours and scents, these plants feed on flies, mosquitos, and even small animals, making them great garden friends and wonderful house or patio plants.
When we think of carnivorous plants, the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is likely the first to come to mind. The mouth-like shape of the modified leaf traps have made this plant the star of cartoons and horror movies everywhere.
These traps remain open, lined by trigger hairs that look just like little teeth to give these plants their menacing appearance. Lined with nectar, these traps attract prey and snap shut when the hairs are touched. The plant produces enzymes that slowly digest the prey over a couple of days (and as long as a week), opening up again when they have absorbed all the nutrients possible.
Pitcher Plant refers to a larger group of species that all have one thing in common – pitcher traps. These tube-shaped modified leaves vary in size based on the species, usually sporting interesting colours and patterns that help attract nearby prey. They also produce a smell that draws a number of insects and even small animals, depending on the plant.
These traps are lined with a sticky substance and small hairs on the sides. Similar to quicksand, anyone that struggles to leave the trap will only be pulled down further. Combined with their depth, anything that enters the trap won’t be able to get out without a fight. These traps also fill with water after the rain, drowning any unfortunate victims that succumb to their curiosity. Stuck at the bottom of the pitcher, the prey is slowly digested to give the plant the nutrients it requires.
These plants are on the prettier side when compared to some of the more dramatic plants on this list. The traps are what set Sundews apart from the rest, featuring cute sticky leaves that attract and capture small insects like flies and mosquitos. These modified leaves are surrounded by small hairs, each with a glob of sticky substance on the end that stops flying insects from escaping.
The tiny hairs wrap around the central pad when they catch something, ensuring there is absolutely no way to escape. Once digested after about a week, they will unravel again and produce more sticky nectar to attract another victim. Try the Cape Sundew, a South African native that also produces cute pink flowers.
While the previous carnivorous plants have relatively simple trapping systems, the Bladderwort goes far beyond the call of duty to capture its food. These traps are not actually visible at first glance. Instead, they remain hidden under the soil. Some grow in soil and others prefer water, but the mechanisms are the same.
The small bladder traps open up below the surface, lined with tiny trigger hairs that snap the bladder shut as soon as any prey comes through. Attracted to their sticky nectar, bugs below the soil or water are drawn into these bladders and closed in, slowly digested to produce the leaves and flowers above the soil that gardeners love.