Carnivorous plants arouse the curiosity of both children and adults. And it goes without saying that the word carnivore or carnivore means that it eats meat. Living things that follow this diet are predators, something that video makers often use to get us quite far from reality.
And, for example, there is no plant that can feed on a human. None. Their diet is based on small animals. Their survival strategy is such that they have adapted to living in nutrient-poor soils. Therefore, it is very important, especially when grown, to know what carnivorous plants eat.
What do they feed on?
Carnivorous plants basically feed on insects: ants, flies, mosquitoes, and the like . The Utricularia survive on nematodes , which are a wormlike animals that are not seen with the naked eye, mosquito larvae and tadpoles . But they can also do it from small spiders and specimens of Nepenthes have even been found that contained rats drowned in their traps.
Beyond that, no animal, human or otherwise, has to see them as a threat. In fact, the nectar produced by its flowers serves as food for many pollinators, among which bees and wasps stand out.
How do carnivorous plants eat?
The first thing they do is catch the insect. And this can be done in several different ways, depending on the type of carnivorous plant it is:
- Hair with mucilage : Mucilage is a sticky substance that sundew has . At first glance they look like drops of dew, which is precisely why they are called “sun dew”. When an insect lands on a leaf, it will no longer be able to escape, since the leaf will also close.
- Toothed trap leaves : like those of the venus flytrap . This is undoubtedly the one that attracts the most attention. In each of its leaves it has nectar, and three “hairs” called trichomes. When an insect touches two in twenty seconds, or the same one twice in a very short period of time, it will shut down. This allows the plant to distinguish a live prey from the rain, thus making better use of its resources.
- Jar-shaped leaves : this is the case of the Sarracenia and Heliamphora . On the inner edge of the leaf-trap, the plants secrete a sweet substance, nectar, which serves as a lure. If an insect gets in, it will have a lot of trouble getting out because the trap has a lot of short downward-pointing hairs. As if that were not enough, these leaves are full of water, so when the insect falls, it dies by drowning.
- Sack-shaped traps : we will see these in the Nepenthes. They are carnivorous plants that produce green leaves, but the petiole of some of those leaves continues to grow until they become traps. Thereafter, it attracts insects with nectar, and since the traps are filled with water, its prey is drowned.
But from here on, how do carnivorous plants digest? Well, they do it thanks to proteins that we also produce: enzymes . These are biological catalysts that regulate chemical reactions in cells. It is they that allow carnivores to first decompose and then digest their prey, while absorbing their nutrients.
Now, the case of carnivores that have jar-shaped leaves or sack-shaped traps is a bit different . In these traps, in addition to water, it has been discovered that there are microorganisms and bacteria that are responsible for decomposing the insects. Once done, the enzymes help digest them.
How long does it take for a carnivorous plant to digest a prey?
Carnivorous plants take a long time to digest their prey. To give you an idea, the venus flytrap can take about a week . I have Saracenians that have had the same dam for more than two weeks.
Where do carnivorous plants live?
They are plants that live in humid areas . The vast majority of the 600 species that exist are native to the tropical regions of the world, although there are some that we can find in the temperate ones, such as the Drosophyllum that lives in sandy or rocky soils of the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco.
They grow in soils with an acid pH and few nutrients ; hence they have to hunt insects to survive. But beware: this cannot be changed. That is to say: if we fertilize them, their roots will suffer serious damage, since they are not able to digest that food directly since the soil in which they live in their natural habitat is nutritionally poor.
So, when growing them, put them in plastic pots, with unfertilized peat moss or esphagnum moss, mixed with perlite in equal parts , and water them with rain or distilled water. so that they are well. For more information, you can read this article on caring for carnivorous plants .
hope you liked it.