The Venus Fly Trap is one of the most captivating plants in the world. Known for its hairy mouth-like jaws that can seemingly snatch up nearby objects, it sometimes more resembles an animal than a plant. In "Little Shop of Horrors," the Venus Fly Trap was portrayed as a flesh-eating monster that must be controlled. In reality, though, it's an intriguing plant that can be easily managed and fun to have around your home.
They’re Native to the Carolinas
Today, most Venus Flytraps are grown in greenhouses and sold around the world. But in the wild, they can only be found in one relatively small swath of boggy land in the Carolinas. There, they thrive in the humid air and sunlight. Most plants do not thrive in this environment, as the soil lacks many of the nutrients they need to survive. But the Venus Fly Trap is a carnivorous plant species, which means they get most of their nutrients from the insects around them, as opposed to the soil.
They Love To Eat Ants
The Venus Fly Trap's main source of nutrition is ants and spiders, but they'll also chow down on beetles, slugs, flies, grasshoppers and even tiny frogs.
They’ve Developed Incredibly Cool Adaptations
The Venus Fly Trap has evolved in fascinating ways to be able to consume bugs and small amphibians. A typical Venus Fly Trap has six traps shaped like jaws. These traps are surrounded by thick and tall trigger hairs called cilia. When an insect lands in the trap, the plant must close its jaw around the animal to consume its nutrients.
It takes a lot of energy to close that trap, though, so the plant must be sure it's worth the effort. To do so, it uses some of its adaptations. First, sensory hairs inside the trap, known as trichomes, detect the movements from the insect. If it moves at least twice in 20 seconds, the trichomes give the okay for the trap to close. Otherwise, the plant determines that it has trapped a piece of dirt or debris rather than an insect, and continues to wait for the right prey.
Once the trap does snap shut on its prey, that little insect realizes it's been trapped and likely tries to free itself. But that's when the cilia adaptation performs its duty: those thick hairs interlock and prevent any insect big enough to provide nutrients from escaping.
They Spit Out the Bones
After the Venus Fly Trap has snared its prey, the plant begins to digest the insect. The process involves releasing digestive juices that dissolve the soft parts of the insect. The digestion process can take as many as 12 days to complete. Once the nutrients have been completely absorbed and the soft part of the insect is dissolved, the plant opens its trap and waits for the leftover exoskeleton to be washed or blown away.
They Can Live At Your House
With the right soil, conditions and care, a Venus Fly Trap can be a cool addition to your plant collection. You'll have to do your best to mimic its environment in the wild: plant it in acidic soil (different from normal potting soil), give it a period of winter dormancy and feed it live insects like flies, remembering that the trichomes must detect movement otherwise they won't allow the trap to close on the insect. Your local greenhouse or specialty plant store can be a great resource for providing you with both the plant and tips on its care.