Dionaea Muscipula - Venus Fly Trap

Family - Droseraceae

Order - Caryophyllales

Recognition - Green leaves with small traps featuring cilia on the two sides of the trap. Flowers have five white petals.

Habitat - Humid marshes

Residency - Southeastern United States

Life Span - Perennial

Of Special Note - The Venus Fly Trap is a very interesting example of a carniverous plant. Most plants get their nutrients from the soil, but the venus fly trap is able to get nutrients from the soil and any unfortunate insects that land in its trap. When an insect lands in the trap, the trap closes and the insect is slowly dissolved. The trap is held together by fingerlike cilia at its edges, making all but the smallest prisoner unable to escape.

The ability of the trap to detect a victim and close is a mystery since venus fly traps do not have a nervous system of any sort. The generally accepted theory is that pressure on the trap creates an electrical potential, which triggers a change in fluid pressure to shut the trap.

Once closed, the trap proceeds to secrete digestive juices that dissolve the inside parts of the insect or other creature. The digestive process typically takes a week or two, after which the trap opens and expels the leftover exoskeleton, which cannot be fully digested.

Venus fly traps are sold at many gardening stores and can be kept in a small pot indoors. You only need to feed them a few insects per year and the insects can be live or freshly killed. In the case of a dead insect, the trap might not close all the way, but you can help it along by squeezing the sides of the trap a bit. If you keep your plant outdoors, it will probably catch enough insects on its own to survive.

The venus fly trap lives best in areas of high humidity and can survive for several months underwater. To create an environment of humidity, you can spray the plant with water and/or place a cup over it to help trap the moisture in. After the plant matures, it will start producing flowers. However, the flowering takes a lot of energy from the plant and it will grow much faster if you pinch off the flower buds as they appear.

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