How Clever Are Venus Flytraps?

Venus flytraps grow flowers on tall stalks, far away from their deadly “traps,” to avoid killing helpful pollinators.
Venus flytraps grow flowers on tall stalks, far away from their deadly “traps,” to avoid killing helpful pollinators.

Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, so it might seem odd that a carnivorous fly-catching plant would share that lovely name. But that's because you probably only know about the dark side of the Venus flytrap: the nectar in its leaves that lures insects to their deaths.

Far from those deadly traps (actually hinged leaves full of insect-dissolving acid and digestive enzymes) are the plant's tall stalks and delicate white flowers, which attract pollinators such as beetles and bees in a completely harmless way. The stalks can reach heights of 14 inches (35 cm), so the pollinators have less chance of accidentally becoming a meal for the plant. Once pollinated, the flowers produce black seeds that are only about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Despite its reputation as a bug killer, the Venus flytrap has little choice in the matter. Native to parts of North and South Carolina and growing in poor soil where other plants wouldn't survive, the Venus flytrap has to rely on its insect diet to get the nutrients it might otherwise get from the ground.

Deadly plants:

  • The waterwheel plant is very similar to the Venus flytrap, except it floats freely in water.

  • The carnivorous plants in the genus Drosera, known as sundews, have sticky hairs that they use to catch insects and then dissolve them with a digestive enzyme.

  • The Albany pitcher plant has leaves that form into pitfall traps that insects walk over and fall into.

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    • Venus flytraps grow flowers on tall stalks, far away from their deadly “traps,” to avoid killing helpful pollinators.
      Venus flytraps grow flowers on tall stalks, far away from their deadly “traps,” to avoid killing helpful pollinators.