Dionaea muscipula – Venus Flytrap:
This carnivorous plant is native to subtropical wetlands of certain coastal parts of Carolina (America). Its prey consists of mainly insects and spiders. The terminal part of each leaf is the trapping structure, which has sensitive hairs which are triggered when insects etc come in contact with the hairs. The fascinating part is that the plant can distinguish between living prey and non-prey stimuli for example raindrops, debris etc. It does this with its hairs (trichomes), where two hairs must be touched in succession within 20 seconds of each other or one hair must be touched in rapid succession. The two leaf lobes then close shut on the insect and the fringes or cilia along the lobes then mesh together to stop the prey from escaping.
At the same time the gaps in the cilia allow prey that are too small to escape which suits the plant as it will not waist its energy on something that will not provide much benefit. Digestion of prey takes about 10 days and then the leaf will open up again. Another interesting fact is that the reason a Venus fly trap has to catch food is because its natural habitat is nitrogen and phosphorus poor boggy soils so it makes up for this lack of appropriate soil nutrition with prey. Venus fly traps are plants which go dormant in winter so don’t immediately think it has succumbed to death. Venus fly traps require moist, acidic, nutrient deficient soils and are therefore usually grown as pot plants to be able to recreate these specific conditions. They do best when in a brightly lit condition or sunny spot, but be careful with full direct sunlight as they can burn. If the plants do not have a pink interior or leaves get long and spindly then you know that not enough sunlight is being received. If you are ever needing to repot a Venus fly trap do not plant it in potting soil as this will be too nutrient rich, but rather a combo of one third sand and two thirds peat moss.
Another thing is that they must not be fertilised (can actually kill them). They prefer to have some humidity which is why they do well indoors. The plants do like to be moist but must also not be constantly in water either. To accomplish this it is best to put water in the tray and let this be soaked up. Only add water again once tray is dry as this will give the wet soil a chance to breathe again. Collect rain or use distilled water as tap water can be too alkaline and also have too much nutrition in it. Plants should be watered less during dormancy so that rhizome does not rot. These plants are only capable of eating live insects which stimulate their cilia. Please keep in mind that they don’t need to eat insects all the time in order to survive. Remember as mentioned in my introduction that leaves must not be touched and stimulated without having food in them.