Plants adapt to anything and everything on Earth. The ones growing in arid areas have adapted to dry environments and low water with succulent, water-storing leaves. The ones growing in tundra environments have modified spiny leaves. Similarly, there are plants that have adapted to low nutrient soils by being carnivorous or insectivorous in nature! Insectivorous plants are the rarest and most unique feature of the plant kingdom. Unlike plants with roots systems that derive nutrition from the soil, carnivorous plants get theirs on a diet of bugs! They’re elegant death traps that seduce insects and even animals like frogs and mice with their attractive features. They can lure them with their sweet scent, bright flowers or succulent flesh. After entrapping their prey they digest them with digestive juices and acids. Many of them are endangered or vulnerable in nature while many are being used in gardens as ornamental plants.
Here are the Top 12 Carnivorous and Insectivorous plants.
Byblis, popularly known as “Rainbow Plant”, is a genus of carnivorous plants with attractive flowers and mucilage covered leaves. It is native to Western Australia and is the only genus in its family. They are known to have extremely weak and fibrous roots and hence largely depend on insects for nutrients. Its hunting mechanism, like all carnivorous plants, depends on its ability to attract prey toward itself. The bright flowers work in the seduction of small insects or arachnids. The leaves that shimmer in sunlight entrap prey by keeping them bound to the leaves with their sticky mucilage. They are then eventually digested where they land or sit.
11. Dewy Pine
Dewy Pine is a carnivorous plant that is native to Western Mediterranean countries like Portugal and Spain. It is the single species of its genus, Drosophyllum, and is supposedly the only carnivorous plant that grows in dry soil and Mediterranean climate. It is closely related to Sundew, another genus of carnivorous plants while being a distant relative to Byblis. Hence, its feeding mechanism is similar to that of Byblis and Sundew. The prey mistakes the shimmering leaf mucilage for nectar and hence, lands on its leaves. Its leaves then curl to suffocate the prey after which they are gradually digested.
10. Corkscrew Plants
Corkscrews are around 30 species of carnivorous plants belonging to the Genlisea genus. They grow in semi-aquatic soil and are native to Africa and Central & South America. They have two division of leaves – the leaves above the surface and the subterranean leaves underneath. The leaves above the surface carry out photosynthesis while the undersurface leaves entrap and eventually digest small organisms like protozoa. The subterranean leaves are highly modified, they attract the prey and entrap them to get nutrition since corkscrews grow in soils with very low nutrients.
Brocchinia refers the carnivorous plant that comes under the genus of Bromeliad. It is one of the very few bromeliads that have been discovered to extract nutrients from fauna. It is native to South American countries like Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, and Colombia. They grow in soils with poor nutrient content, like most carnivorous and insectivorous plants, and hence require prey for their nutrition supplement. They have overlapping leaves which form a water cup. Its leaves are waxy & reflect light and they emit a sweet odor, all of which attract small insects. Once the insects fall into the “cup”, they’re unable to get out and are henceforth digested by the plant through enzymes and bacteria.
8. Waterwheel Plant
Waterwheel plants are insectivorous and aquatic plants that belong to the Aldrovanda genus. Many species belonged to this genus before going extinct; waterwheel plants are said to be an endangered species themselves. They are rootless and consist of floating stems along with having traps underwater. Similar to Venus Flytraps, another carnivorous plant, waterwheels have two lobes that close to entrap their prey. Moreover, these traps have stimulating hairs which shut in response to contact with aquatic invertebrates. Their prey is eventually digested and has nutrition extracted from them. These traps exhibit one of the fastest movements in the plant kingdom – they close within 10-20 milliseconds after their prey lands between them.
7. Trumpet Pitchers
Trumpet Pitchers of the Sarracenia genus are carnivorous plants that consist of around 10 different species. They are native to North America and are closely related to other families of pitcher plants. Trumpet pitchers have their leaves in the shape of a funnel within which insects and small animals are entrapped. The plant attracts its insect prey with secretions from the lip of the pitcher leaves, as well as a combination of the leaves’ color and scent. The pitcher’s slippery rim along with the lacing of narcotic drugs in the nectar results in insects falling inside. They then die and are gradually digested by the plant with various digestive enzymes.
Drosera is a genus of plants which houses over 190 species of carnivorous plants called Sundews. It is one of the largest genus of carnivorous plants and one of the most abundantly found ones on Earth. Sundews have poorly developed roots & grow in nutrient sparse soil and hence depend on their preys for their nutrition supplement. They have stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surfaces which are used to attract, entrap and digest their prey. Upon contact, the prey is captured by sticky mucilage which prevents their escape. The prey either succumb to death through exhaustion or through asphyxiation since the mucilage suffocates them and clogs their spiracles. They are eventually digested with the enzymes present in their leaves.
Butterworts, belonging to the Pinguicula genus, are flowering plants that have the ability to glue insects and small organisms onto their leaves. They are distributed within Europe, North & South America and Asia. They are unique since their carnivory can be seasonal i.e. they may refrain from being carnivorous depending on the season. Butterworts have specialized glands scattered across the surface of their leaves that produce visible wet droplets, which draw in insects that are in search of water. Upon landing, the prey’s struggles are counterproductive since movement tightens the grip of the glandular hairs which cause the prey to seep deeper into the leaves. Eventually the plant completely absorbs them.
4. Cobra Lily
Cobra Lily, also known as the Cobra Plant or the California Pitcher Plant is a carnivorous plant belonging to the Darlingtonia genus. It strongly resembles a rearing cobra with its tubular leaves along with a forked leaf that resembles a serpent’s tongue. Its feeding mechanism is similar to that of the Trumpet pitcher but unlike other pitcher plants, the Cobra Lily doesn’t collect rainwater in its pitcher. Once an insect is lured inside, lubricating secretions and downward-pointing hairs prevent them from escaping. The Cobra Lily regulates water within its pitcher by pulling water from the soil through its roots, this further prevents its prey to escape. Eventually, the plant digests their prey after they get tired of sturggling.
Bladderworts, belonging to the Utricularia genus, are aquatic carnivorous plants. They have bright yellow flowers and They have little pouch-like traps submerged underwater. Their traps are extremely sophisticated and can even pull in fast and slippery prey like tadpoles. When their trap is triggered by potential prey, the water surrounding the trap is sucked in, and when full of water, the traps close. This trapping mechanism makes it impossible for the prey to escape since they are being sucked in with the flow of water. Mosquito larvae, nematodes, tadpoles and water fleas are common prey. Bladderworts grow all over the world in virtually any wet environment. They can even grow in the damp bark on trees or just about any empty space with water clogged within.
2. Tropical Pitcher Plants
Tropical Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that belong to the Nepenthes genus which houses over 100 species. They are one of the most widely cultivated carnivorous plants and are distributed all around the world. Their feeding mechanism is considered the ideal one for all pitcher plants – A pitcher with slippery walls and rims to prevent a prey’s escape. The pitcher starts as a small bud and gradually expands to form a tube-shaped trap. Tropical Pitcher Plants contain a watery liquid in their “trap” to drown their prey. Moreover, they secrete nectar along the rim which attracts different types of organisms towards them – from bugs to frogs which they slowly digest with their digestive enzymes.
1. Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytraps, considered the ultimate carnivorous plant, belong to the Dionaea genus and are native to the continent of North America. They are infamous for having the most dramatic meat eating reflexes out of all the other plants of the category. This is largely due to their trap resembling a set of jaws with sharp teeth. Furthermore, they have been studied to be “intelligent”. A number of small holes on the plant’s surface allow small flying insects to escape because the nutrients they contain are not worth the energy. The bright red “mouth” of the plant attracts preys. They contain trigger hairs on the surface which are stimulated, hence causing the trap to clamp shut. This forms a concave cavity which gets tighter as the prey struggles to escape. A Venus flytrap then digests and has nutrients absorbed from them.
These are 12 of the most fascinating and unique plants ever, having adapted to absorb nutrients from fauna as opposed to the normal methods of nutrition absorption of the plant kingdom.