The term carnivorous plant may conjure up in your mind a scene like this one where the unsuspecting victim in a swamp is being snatched up by a flesh-eating plant. But carnivorous plants are a very interesting group of plants that aren’t near as big as they are shown in this picture.
For a plant to be considered carnivorous, it has to have these characteristics
1. Must use a “trap” to attract insects;
2. Capture the insect;
3. Kill the insect; and
4. Digest the insect.
Carnivorous plants can use a number of techniques to capture their prey. These include traps that are pitfall, snap, flypaper, bladder and even lobster-pot traps.
A pitcher plant has a pitfall trap. It has rolled leaves that are lined with slippery hairs that point downward to it’s trap. The insects are attracted to the leaves of sweet smelling nectar. The interior is coated with wax. When an insect lands, it’s feet are coated with wax making it hard to climb out and soon stops struggling and falls down into the trap. There it is digested by the enzymes.
The venus flytrap is a good example of a snap trap. It has two winged or clam shaped leaves that are brightly colored inside. When an insect lands, hairs inside the trap are triggered and the leaves SNAP shut within seconds. As the trapped insect thrashes around, the leaves get tighter and digestion is started.
Sundew plants have a sticky substance they secrete that acts like flypaper. The leaves sparkle and look like dew glistening in the sun. They are also covered with the glue like substance that traps the insects once they land to get a better look. Once trapped, the leaves pull the insects closer and begin digestion.
Bladderworts are mostly found in water and contain sacs that have hinged like door openings. They suck in prey like a vacuum and close the door.
Corkscrews plants on the other hand are easier to enter but have the lobster-pot traps. Corkscrew plants have a Y shaped leaf. Prey enter the leaf through a spiral structure and are forced to move toward the bottom of the Y where digestion takes place.
The carnivorous plants are very similar to other plants except for one fact–they are able to absorb certain nutrients from animals. All plants need an important nutrient called nitrogen to thrive. Most of the time plants can get this nutrient from ammonia which they get from the nitrogen cycle or from the soil. However, if the soil is poor or rich in ammonia, you might not see many carnivorous plants.
Does this mean that the insects are food for the plant? NO. Like all plants, the carnivorous plant still gets its food from the process of photosynthesis. This was a unique design by God for these plants to get the nutrients they needed from these poor little unsuspecting visitors trapped by the carnivorous plants sweet smelling nectar or great looks! A lot of carnivorous plants then grow where soil is thin and nutrients available are poor.
It is true that some unsuspecting rodents, frogs or birds might be captured by these plants. But the plants have no choice but to digest them because they cannot get out. However, it could cause great harm for the plant to do this. God did not design these plants to consume rodents, but insects. So it would not be wise to feed your carnivorous plant hamburger meat.
If you should happen to fall into a bed of flesh-eating carnivorous plants, you have nothing to worry about if you’re bigger than an insect!
And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil or spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence was not arrayed like one of these.
Pitcher Plant Venus Flytrap
Links I liked:
For younger children.
For any age:
Endangered Species Coloring Book – This has one page of a green pitcher plant to color (page 19), but it has different pages on other endangered species of animals and plants. There are some nice color pictures at the end that can be cut up and used as quiz or in your notebook/lapbooks.
Pitcher Plants in a Bog coloring page
Carnivorous Plant Fact Sheet – Nifty 2 page download that shows pictures of the various traps. A few color pictures. Nice.
Carnivorous Plant and Identification – Definitely for your highschooler or College Prep. A study guide for a continuing education course – 80 page .pdf with pictures, explanations and a glossary. Very nice resource since it’s a complete stand alone course.