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Wisconsin's Tropical Gardens


Plant Profile Series

 
 

VENUS FLY TRAP - Dionea

 

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This oddity of nature is the stuff of horror movies. Venus Fly Trap is one of many carnivorous plants -- plants that eat insects to provide thier nitrients. This plant has a rosette of hinged, heart-shaped leaves with teeth-like fringes that, when touched, close up. Inside there is a sticky substance that lures insects in where they are digested once the leaves have closed around them.

 

TEMPERATURE/WATER: Warmth and humidity are key to growing healthy carnivorous plants. Water with rainwater or distilled water. Some growers have better success growing them in a closed container such as an aquarium. This helps keep the humidity high. Very little fertilizer is necessary.

LIGHT: Provide moderate light, with no exposure to sun.

Carnivorous plants are specialty plants with limited availability. Venus Fly Traps are often available in 4" covered pots.

MORE INFO:  How does the Fly Trap digest flies?

The Venus Fly Trap does not depend on insects for its main source of energy. Instead it mines insects for essential nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous in particular) that are in short supply in its boggy, acidic habitat.

How does it do it? It lures insects to its trap-like jaws with sweet-smelling nectar. There are 3-6 trigger hairs on each leaf. If those hairs are touched, the trap shuts. Once the trap closes, digestive glands secrete enzymes that dissolve soft parts, kill bacteria and fungi, and break down the insect into the necessary nutrients. These nutrients are then absorbed into the leaf. After 5-12 days, the trap reopens to release the leftover exoskeleton.

After 3-5 meals, the trap will no longer capture prey, but continues to photosynthesize for another 2-3 months before dropping off the plant. (If tripped by finger or twig, the trap will reopen in a day or so.)

Plant owners should be cautioned not to over-stimulate a Fly Trap. After some 10 unsuccessful trap closures, the leaf will cease to respond to touch and will only be able to photosynthesize.