A Venus Flytrap is a type of plant, which is carnivorous and feeds primarily on insects and spiders. Its Latin name is Dionaea muscipula, and it is popular as an exotic plant for home cultivation. In mainstream culture it has also achieved a high level of popularity, with the Venus Flytrap appearing in various books, television shows, and movies over the years.
Most plants get their nutrients from the soil in which they grow. A small portion of plants, however, get their nutrients from animals, which they catch and digest. These plants are referred to as a whole as carnivorous plants, although they cover five different families and more than a dozen genera. Most carnivorous plants are relatively passive, making use of mechanisms such as sticky surfaces or pitchers full of liquid to catch their play. Two types of carnivorous plants, however, make use of a much more active snap trap to catch their prey: the Venus Flytrap and the waterwheel plant.
The Venus Flytrap is native only to North Carolina and South Carolina in the United States, in bog-land where there are very few nutrients to be found in the soil. The plants are also found naturally in parts of northern Florida, and are widely cultivated by amateur and professional gardeners.
The exact mechanism by which Venus Flytraps capture their prey still isn’t entirely understood, but the general mechanism is. Each leaf on a Venus Flytrap has two distinct lobes, which are what snap shut to capture prey. These lobes have sensitive hairs on them, which act as trigger mechanisms to cause the Venus Flytrap to close. When the hairs are touched by an insect, the lobes swell slightly, flipping from a convex to a concave shape and snapping shut. Once shut, the insect continues to flail about, further exciting the hairs and causing the lobes to continue swelling until they seal completely.
Once sealed, the Venus Flytrap begins to digest the insect within the sealed lobes. This process takes about a week and a half, and the nutrients of the insect are absorbed by the lobe into the plant. Once the insect has been completely digested, the lobes slowly reopen, and the trap is effectively reset, to await another insect to land on it.
Venus Flytraps are fairly tricky to grow at home, but there is a large community of enthusiasts who grow them and offer assistance to those who wish to grow them. The number one reason people have difficulty growing Venus Flytraps is that they receive plants which are already in a poor state of health when they buy them, so then must fight an uphill battle to get them healthy again. The Venus Flytrap can be kept in a pot either indoors or outside, although they cannot handle intense cold well at all. A large number of cultivars of the Venus Flytrap exist. Some of the most popular include the Big Mouth, the Jaws, the Royal Red, and the Red Dragon.
In popular culture the Venus Flytrap has captivated people’s imaginations, as an almost animal-like plant. The most famous Venus Flytrap in the media is undoubtedly the fictional Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, but Venus Flytraps appear as villains and heroes in everything from cartoons to television shows to video games, such as Inspector Gadget, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, The Simpsons, and The Addams Family.