Carnivorous Plants

The word carnivorous means to need meat (from animals) for survival. So that means carnivorous plants are plants that eat bugs and even small animals like frogs. What! Are there really plants that eat?

Yes, there are. In fact, there are 630 different kinds of carnivorous plants around the world. Some carnivorous plants are water plants (they live in the water) and some live in the soil like most other plants do.

Now you probably want to know how a carnivorous plant catches the bugs it needs to eat since plants don’t have arms and legs and cannot walk. Well, there are actually five different ways a carnivorous plant can catch its prey (food). Let’s take a look.

Pitfall plants: Some carnivorous plants have slippery leaves that are shaped like a funnel and slant down toward the bottom of the plant. When bugs land on the leaves of these plants, they slide down the leaf into a ‘pool’ of digestive enzymes found in the bottom of the leaf. NOTE: digestive enzymes are juices that help digest food.

Flypaper traps: You have probably heard of the Venus Flytrap. This is the most popular or well-known carnivorous plant. But it is not the only one that catches its prey by ‘gluing’ it to itself. When bugs land on a carnivorous plant like this, the sticky or gluey substance on the plant keeps bugs from being able to get away. And you know what that means….Chomp! Chomp! Yum!

Snap traps: Carnivorous plants with snap traps catch their food by trapping bugs inside their leaves so they cannot escape. Here’s how it works: when a bugs land on the leaves of these plants, hairy-spikes snap shut almost instantly. The bugs then fall down in the leaves where they are digested.

Bladder traps: Carnivorous plants with bladder traps live in the water. They suck bugs and other small animals out of the water (like a vacuum cleaner) and into the bladder so they can be digested.

Lobster traps: Carnivorous plants with lobster traps use tiny hairs which are all going the same direction to force bugs to walk toward the pool of digestive enzymes at the bottom of the plant’s leaves.

Carnivorous plants need more than just bugs or frogs to survive, though. Like all other plants, carnivorous plants depend on photosynthesis for some if its food (sugar) as well as carbon dioxide.

So, why eat bugs? If they get food through photosynthesis, why do they need bugs or frogs to eat? Carnivorous plants get nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium from their unique diet. Other plants get these things from the soil.

How big are carnivorous plants?

Most carnivorous plants don’t get very big; about 12 inches tall. There are a few, however, that grow to be much larger than that. The large carnivorous plants grow to be about 3 feet tall. Don’t worry, though…carnivorous plants don’t eat people.

Just say NO!

If you know something is dangerous or someone does not like, what do you do? You stay away, don’t you? So why don’t bugs stay away from carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous make it hard for bugs to stay away from them. They do this by one of two ways:

  • Their smell. Many carnivorous plants smell very sweet and produce lots and lots of nectar (sugary liquid bees use to make honey and bugs use to pollinate flowers).
  • Their color. The bright colors of many carnivorous plants tempt bugs to come to them…then WHAM!

How to grow carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plants are surprisingly easy to grow. They need:

    • Lots of water—distilled water only, please. NOTE: Distilled water is mineral-free water. NOTE: Don’t drown your carnivorous plant…just keep the dirt wet.
    • Lots of sunshine.
    • NO fertilizer or plant food.
    • Mineral-free or sterile soil. This means you don’t need special potting soil with plant food in it.
    • Bugs. NOTE: If you keep your carnivorous plants indoors, you will need to feed your plants blood worms.

As long as you follow these five simple rules, you can grow your own bug-eating plants. Isn’t that cool!

Popular carnivorous plants

The most popular carnivorous plants are:

  • Venus Flytrap
  • Pitcher Plant—there are lots of different types of pitcher plants
  • Sun Dew
  • Corkscrew Plant
  • Butterwort
  • Bladderwort

Can you see them eating

While you won’t actually be able to see most carnivorous plants digest their food, you can watch them slide down the leaves, be trapped in the snap trap or glued to the plant’s leaves.

So…what do you say? Are you ready to grow a carnivorous plant?

Read more about Plant Facts for Kids