By William Mills
Venus Flytrap-Dionaea Muscipula
The Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant that actually eats insects which its leaves trap!
Like other plants they extract nutrients from the ground.
But unlike others, and because they are native to the poor quality, boggy soil found in the USA’s Carolinas, they supplement their diet by eating live insects!
Today they are extensively cultivated for their novelty value.
The leaves of the Venus flytrap open revealing an inner layer of short, stiff hairs called triggers. When these are bent by an inquisitive insect the leaves snap shut in less than a second.
Non edible particles are rejected after around twelve hours by the leaves re-opening.
Otherwise the leaves tighten around the insect forming an airtight seal to keep its digestive juices in and any unwanted bacteria out.
This digestion phase can take up to two weeks after which the plant reabsorbs its juices and re-opens.
It also produces an antiseptic juice to prevent the insect decaying and going mouldy which can result in the trap turning black and falling off.
Some authorities claim the Venus flytrap is easy to grow while others state it can be more tricky.
All state they must be kept moist with high humidity, and bright light. Don’t use any fertilisers or add lime as they prefer slightly acidic soil.
The flowers grow on long stems to keep any pollinating insects away from the traps and it is advised to remove them as they use up a lot of the plant’s energy which would have otherwise gone into growing more traps.
Available from garden centres and online. A growing number of florists are also stocking this novelty plant. Prices in Sussex UK range from around £4 to £8.
As these are tricky plants to grow and prone to go mouldy, perhaps try the cheaper ones first.
Also at one garden centre their Venus Flytrap plants were completely dried out with stems growing up clear of the soil.
Even though the accompanying leaflet recommended keeping it constantly moist the opposite seemed to be occurring in this instance.