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Carnivorous Plants - An Introduction

Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek

If you've watched movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jumanji, and Little Shop of Horrors then you've seen some great Hollywood fictional depictions of carnivorous plants! While those stories may entertain us, the truth about the biology of carniverous plants is even more interesting!


WHAT ARE CARNIVOROUS PLANTS?
At the most basic level, a carnivorous plant is one that obtains some or all of its nutrients from the consumption of animals or protozoans - most commonly insects.

As noted by botanist Barry Rice in 2010, carnivorous plants have the following three attributes:

- Clear adaptations to capture prey, such as a trap
- A method of digesting prey into a form that can be absorbed by the plant
- A way of absorbing and benefiting from these nutrients

Plants that have only some of these attributes are referred to as semi-carnivorous, para-carnivorous, or sub-carnivorous.


BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION OF CARNIVOROUS PLANTS
Carnivorous plants are classified as follows:

- Kingdom Plantae
-- Division Anthophyta (Angiosperms, or flowering plants)
--- Class Dicotyledones (Dicots) (Most carnivorous plants are in this Class)
--- Class Monocotyledones (Monocots) (A few bromeliad carnivorous plants are in this Class)


CARNIVOROUS PLANT TRAP TYPES
There are five basic trap mechanisms used by carnivorous plants:

1. Pitfall Traps
These plants trap prey in rolled up leaves that contain a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria. An example of a plant that uses the pitfall trap is the pitcher plant, genus Cephalotus.

2. Flypaper, or Sticky Traps
As their name indicates, these plants have surfaces covered in a sticky mucilage substance. An example of a plant that uses the flypaper trap is the sundew, genus Drosera.

3. Bladder, or Suction Traps
These plants have an internal bladder that they use to generate suction, like a vacuum, pulling the plant inside. Only one plant genus is known to use the suction trap - Utricularia

4. Snap Traps
Plants that use snap traps use rapid leaf movement to close on their prey - like a person snapping their mouth shut. An example of a plant that uses the snap trap is the ever-popular Venus Fly Trap, genus Dionaea.

5. Lobster Pot Traps
Plants that use the lobster-pot method have passages with inward-pointing hairs that force their prey to move towards their digestive organ. Plant that use this trapping method can be found in the genus Genlisea


WHERE DO CARNIVOROUS PLANTS GROW?
Carnivorous plants are generally found in areas of that are wet and warm, such as wetlands, bogs and tropical forests. An additional environmental factor is that the soils in those areas are generally very nutrient poor. It is for this reason that carnivorous plants, which can obtain needed nutrients from their prey, abound there.


HOW MANY TYPES OF CARNIVOROUS PLANTS EXIST?
Current data indicate that there are more than 670 species and subspecies of carnivorous plants currently in existence. The largest percentage of these, over two hundred species, belong to the genus Utricularia.


INTERESTED IN BUYING CARNIVOROUS PLANTS? CHECK THESE OUT!

Venus Fly Trap Plant - CARNIVOROUS -Dionaea - 2" pot
The most well-known and popular carnivorous plant - The Venus Flytrap!


Carnivorous Terrarium with Live Plants - Great Gift!
With this terrarium you can grow your own famous carnivorous plants, including Venus Fly Trap, Cobra Plant & Sundew Plant!

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Content copyright © 2014 by Deborah Watson-Novacek. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Deborah Watson-Novacek. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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