Carnivorous Plants: Insect Eating Plants
Carnivorous plants are plants that get nutrients from trapping and eating animals. They are often called insectivorous plants because they typically trap insects. Since they get a number of their food from animals, carnivorous plants can grow in places where the soil is thin, or poor in nutrients. This is true for soils with little nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcrops. The ability of plants to catch animals is true carnivory. There are more than twelve genera in five families.
Preferably than discharging a sweet smell, butterworts attract insects that mistake the pearly secretions on their leaves for water, at which point they get mired within the sticky goo and are slowly dissolved by digestive enzymes. We can often tell when a butterwort has had a good meal by the hollow insect exoskeletons, made out of chitin, left on its leaves after their insides have been sucked dry.
So named because it looks like a cobra snake about to strike, the cobra lily is a rare plant native to the cold-water bogs of Oregon and northern California. This plant is actually diabolical: not only does it lure insects into its pitcher with its sweet smell, but its closed pitchers have numerous, see-through false “exits” that exhaust its desperate victims as they try to escape. Oddly enough, naturalists have yet to spot the natural pollinator of the cobra lily. Clearly, some type of insect gathers this flower’s pollen and lives to see another day, but it’s unknown precisely which
The Portuguese sundew grows in nutrient-poor soil along the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco—so we’ll forgive it for supplementing its diet with the occasional insect. Like other carnivorous plants on this list, the Portuguese sundew attracts bugs with its sweet aroma, traps them during a sticky substance called mucilage on its leaves, secretes digestive enzymes that slowly dissolve the unfortunate insects, and absorbs the nutrients so it can live to flower another day.
We all know the fundamentals of the food chain: plants eat sunlight, animals eat plants, and larger animals eat smaller animals. In the world of nature, there are always exceptions, as evidenced by plants that attract, trap, and digest animals.