Venus flytrap is native to only a small area in North Carolina and is the focus of conservation efforts. They are called carnivorous plants because they catch small prey and digest them with special juices. Venus flytraps are not poisonous, so anything could prey upon the plants. House cats will eat almost any plant they fancy. In nature, small mammals such as rodents and larger insects eat the plant. The plant is considered rare in the wild and attempts to poach them are illegal.
Venus flytrap is a small plant only a few inches tall. It bears folding green leaves with a pink tinge inside. The edges of the leaves bear tooth-like hairs that sense the movements of live prey. When the prey is in position, the leaf snaps shut in less than 10 seconds and cilia fold together to trap the insect. The plant releases digestive juices and an antiseptic that keeps the prey from rotting while the plant feeds. When all the liquid is drained from the insect, the trap opens to reveal a dry exoskeleton that blows away in the wind.
Why a Plant Traps Prey
The soils where the Venus flytrap grow are nutrient rich but usually deficient in nitrogen. The flytrap collects sun and turns it into energy, but its leaves are inefficient and the plant requires more nutrients than it can get from the soil or sun. Hence it consumes the insects and their nutrient rich bodily fluids. There are many types of carnivorous plants, but only the flytrap and European waterwheel have snapping traps. This enables them to catch larger prey than if they were just using sticky traps.
Many of the remaining native Venus flytraps are grown in North Carolina's Green Swamp. The area is home to several endangered plants and other carnivorous flora such as sun-dews. The white-tailed deer is a prolific grazer that will eat the plant in lean winters. Wild hogs and fox squirrels are potential predators as well as other rodents and ground foragers. The Venus flytrap relies on frequent fires to destroy overstory plants and allow sunlight into the area. Most of the fauna of the swamp are adapted to the fire-and-growth cycle and will eat low-growing plants that survive the fires.
The Venus flytrap's native numbers are unlikely to be affected by animals eating the plant. It is not recorded as a favorite species for any of the area herbivores and would likely only be eaten by a young, inexperienced animal or in times of great scarcity. The biggest threats to the plant are poachers and environmental breakdown due to human intervention. The very small natural range of the plant limits the population, and other factors exacerbate the problem. Venus flytraps purchased in nurseries and stores are propagated especially for sale. These plants have little in common genetically with the wild species.
- United States of America Department of Energy-Newton; Venus Flytraps and Food Chain; Jim Swenson; March 2, 2004
- The Botanical Society of America; The Mysterious Venus Flytrap
- Southwest Florida Water Management District; Green Swamp Interactive
- "Smithsonian Magazine"; The Venus Flytrap's Lethal Allure; Abigail Tucker; February 2010