CARNIVOROUS PLANTS

Meat-eating, or carnivorous, plants can trap and digest insects and other small animals. They do this to obtain the vital nitrogen that they need to grow. Most plants absorb enough nitrogen from nitrates in the soil. Carnivorous plants live in bogs, where nitrates are in short supply, so they need to obtain their nitrogen by digesting prey instead. Carnivorous plants have developed unique ways to catch insects, such as fluid-filled PITCHERS and spring-loaded traps.

SPRING-LOADED TRAP

The Venus flytrap’s leaves are hinged so that they can snap shut. Sensitive trigger hairs detect any insect that lands on the surface of an open leaf. At the slightest movement, the two halves of the leaf spring shut. As the sides of the trap close around the victim, the plant releases digestive juices. These break down the soft parts of the insect.

STICKY TRAP

Sundews are small bog plants that have hair-covered leaves. They produce a droplet of sticky “dew” at the tip of each hair. Insects are attracted to the fluid, but become stuck. Next, the hairs slowly bend inwards until the whole leaf has folded over the insect. Chemicals released from the hairs digest the insect’s body, and nutrients are taken into the plant.

PITCHERS

The pitcher plant is named for the juglike traps that hang below its leaves or grow up from the ground. Each trap has its own lid to keep off the rain and contains special fluid at the bottom. Insects are attracted by the trap’s red markings and the sweet nectar produced around its rim. If the insect lands to drink the nectar, it slips and falls into the trap. It drowns in the fluid at the bottom and its nutrients are slowly absorbed by the plant.

DIGESTIVE JUICES

An insect body has to be broken down before its nutrients can be absorbed into the plant. Carnivorous plants such as pitchers use enzymes, similar to the ones that break down food in an animal’s gut. Acids help the enzymes to break down the body. A pitcher plant can digest a small insect within a few hours, but larger ones take days.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

highlights

11 Awesome STEM Toys to Get Kids into Science & Math
Get your child excited about the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and summer learning! See our picks for science kits, math games, and other STEM toys for kids of all ages.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, brought to you by Galactic Hot Dogs.

Preventing Hot Car Deaths: 6 Facts & Tips for Parents
Every year, between 30 and 50 children in the U.S. die from overheating in a vehicle. Learn facts and prevention tips to safeguard your child from "hot car death."

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks