Venus Fly Trap
Dionaea muscipula, better known as the Venus fly trap, is perhaps the most famous carnivorous plant in the world. This plant gets its nutrition from digesting prey such as insects and arachnids that have become trapped in one of its distinctive cages. These are formed when its leaves close and the outer edges meet. The trap is triggered when tiny hairs on their inner surfaces register movement. To conserve energy and to trap things with nutritional value, this only happens if a second hair registers a trigger within twenty seconds of the first strike.
This small plant has between four and seven leaves forming a rosette. These come from stems that only reach a maximum of ten centimetres. Once the plant has flowered the longer leaves bearing the plant’s distinctive traps are formed.
Venus fly traps are only found naturally in Carolina, although it has been successfully transplanted all over the world. It is a tolerant plant able to withstand a mild winter and does well in boggy locations. It can also cope with fire. The plant’s carnivorous nature has evolved as a result of the generally poor soil it grows on.
Venus fly traps are slow growing and are generally propagated by dividing plants. Healthy plants produce white flowers in scapes in the early spring and if propagated successfully, shiny black seeds will be produced.
The plant belongs to the genus dionaea which refers to the daughter of the Greek goddess Dione, Aphrodite. The species name, muscipula, translates as ‘mousetrap’ in Latin and presumably refers to the plant’s method of catching its prey.
Although the Venus fly trap has a reputation as being difficult to keep, it can be a successful houseplant. Avoid the temptation to unnecessarily trigger the plant’s traps to satisfy curiosity as the plant wastes nutrition and may weaken. The plant should never be allowed to dry out completely, but should be allowed to become moderately dry between waterings and warm water is best. Providing moss in the pot can help grow them successfully.
Did you know?
If you place a dead insect inside a Venus fly trap, the plant won’t close around it. But move the dead insect to imitate a living insect and you will see the trap close around its prey.