Venus Fly Trap

 

Just for the fun of it I have a Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) on the back porch. Back in the winter months on a whim I ordered it via Amazon.com. A nasty little half-dead corpse with soggy rotten leaves arrived, and I thought it was a fizzle. But no, placed in full sun in well drained soil, it perked up and has grown like a little champ. It had no traps on it upon arrival, and now has several fearsome jaws.

You can see in the photos how they work. An fly drawn to the trap by carrion color and presumably by scent,contacts the right trigger hairs in the right time period, and bam! The trap closes, whereupon digestive enzymes commence digestion. What the plant gets from the bug’s remains is “fertilizer,” probably chiefly nitrogen.

Now I’m a newbie with these little nippers, but the experts make three points emphatically: 1. Do not water it with tap water. (I’ve let the rain do it augmented with a spray bottle of distilled water. The VFT seemed happiest when I went away for a week.) 2. Do not feed it meat and do not fertilize. These are plants adapted to extremely poor sandy soil, so added fertilizer is unnatural to them. So is hamburger. So just forget that. To again quote the more-experienced, keep it outdoors and let it catch its own. It does. 3. Do not abuse the traps poking things into them for kicks—they wear out.

Gotcha!

You might expect the world’s oddest carnivorous plant to be native to maybe Borneo or the Amazon, but fact is, VFT comes from coastal North and South Carolina. Some grow “wild” in the Florida Panhandle left over from prior cultivation.

Several carnivorous plants are native to Florida, especially bladderworts, a flesh-eating bromeliad, butterworts, and pitcher plants. But Venus Fly Trap is the only one with a snappy bear trap. The physiology of how that works is beyond the scope of this little article, and beyond my ability to explain anyhow. Suffice it to say that raindrops don’t usually spring the trap, and an electrical signal is involved. And yes, the traps do re-open.

For an expensive and easy tabletop adventure, a Venus Fly Trap is a ton of fun.

 

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