Venus flytrap. (photo: Holly Guenther)

There are more than 600 types of carnivorous plants, but most infamous of all is the Venus flytrap. Sundews and pitcher plants are also carnivorous, and all three are exceptionally beautiful plants.

You can find carnivorous plants on almost every continent, (except Antarctica), and in every state in the United States. As a result of poaching, housing developments, the loss of peat bogs sold as peat moss, and Climate Change, less than 3-5% of plant populations remain in the wild.

Houseplants with Bite

Aside from capturing flies and other insects, some carnivorous plants will eat lizards, frogs, and even small monkeys! These plants live in nutrient poor environments where most life cannot survive. The plants evolved a “work-around” by developing their leaves to capture prey. This food source provides plants with extra nutrients.

Types of Carnivorous Plants

1. Venus flytrap. If a prey touches the hairs on a trap twice within a few seconds; the trap closes within 30 seconds. Next, the trap tightens, seals itself, and digests the insect. Closing a trap expends a lot of energy. Each trap closes 4-5 times before it dies.

I remember telling this naughty kid I used to babysit that if he didn’t behave I’d feed him to my pet flytrap. The movie Little Shop of Horrors must have given him nightmares. He slowly turned to me and said quietly, “I promise I’ll be good. Please don’t feed me to your flytrap.”

Pitcher Plant. (Photo: California Carnivores)

2. Pitcher plants. Small pitchers (actually leaves) lure insects and other unfortunate creatures inside by promising a liquid lunch at the bottom. As the prey walks down the leaf, tiny hairs that point to the bottom of the plant make it difficult to get back out. The prey drowns in the digestive juices and ends up becoming the plant’s lunch. Ironic, right?

Sundew. (Photo: California Carnivores)

3. Sundews. These beautiful, shiny plants are my favorites. They have a sticky substance on “tentacles” attached to their leaves. This “dew” is a mixture of nectar, adhesive compounds, and digestive juices. Insects zoom in for a sip and literally stick to them like flypaper and are slowly digested.

Undoubtedly, the Far Side cartoonist could have made a great comic strip featuring a sundew and a couple of flies.

Mom: “Billy, remember your Uncle Ted? Yep. That’s him up there. This is why you don’t try to drink and fly.”

Should You Buy a Carnivorous Houseplant?

Often, carnivorous houseplant purchases may end in disappointment when plants die. Buyers may not realize these plants need special care. You’ll be much happier purchasing plants from a nursery that specializes in carnivorous plants.

Some years ago I visited California Carnivores in Sebastopol. I was impressed by the number and variety of healthy plants. The staff was enthusiastic and ready to help.

To learn more about these unique plants, join the International Carnivorous Plant Society.