Venus Flytrap: Habitat, Diet & Adaptations

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  • 0:04 Venus Flytrap: An…
  • 0:52 Habitat & Diet
  • 2:09 Trigger Hairs & Cilia
  • 2:50 Living Underwater &…
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Venus flytraps have a unique diet, especially for a plant, and some interesting adaptations that help them survive in their habitat. They live within a very limited range.

Venus Flytrap: An Unusual Plant

Do you have any plants at home or in your yard? What do you feed them? The answer for most plants is nothing. Most plants simply need to be watered, and they get their nutrients from the air and the soil. Some plants, though, actually do eat. The Venus flytrap supplements its diet by eating insects.

The Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, a photosynthetic and carnivorous plant, is a fascinating plant. In fact, the fascination people have with it has led to its status as an endangered species. People go out and collect plants from the wild, depleting the wild population. If you want a Venus flytrap as a pet, it's better to go through official sources and grow one from a seed or buy one from a greenhouse, rather than collecting one from the wild.

Habitat & Diet

The Venus flytrap has a very limited range. It can only be found wild in certain areas of North and South Carolina in the United States. Most of its habitat is near the coast. The Venus flytrap lives in boggy areas (low-lying places with wet, soggy soil). The soil in these areas is very nutrient-poor and acidic. In addition, while this species prefers to grow in full sunlight, it can also survive underwater.

Venus flytraps live in parts of North and South Carolina
Venus flytrap habitat

Like most plants, Venus flytraps conduct photosynthesis, and they get nutrients from the air and soil. However, because of the poor soil where they live, they are much healthier when they supplement their diet with insects. This species eats insects by catching them in its leaf traps and then digesting them. The trap will open 5-12 days later and release the exoskeleton of the insect, since this cannot be digested.

The Venus flytrap is continually growing new leaf traps. Each one can only digest about three different insects before it turns black and falls off. Even if it is opening and closing on nothing, it can only do so about seven times. That's why it's best not to poke a Venus flytrap. It may seem like harmless fun, but it costs the plant energy and hurts the trap, causing the plant to need a new one without gaining any energy from insects.

Venus flytraps cannot digest insect exoskeletons
Leftover fly in trap

Trigger Hairs & Cilia

Several of its adaptations are to help it catch and eat insects. For example, Venus flytraps have long, stiff trigger hairs inside their traps. These hairs tell the plant when there is a live insect. The trap won't shut unless multiple hairs are bent, indicating that something is moving around inside the trap. This prevents the plant from wasting energy by trapping things it can't eat, like stray leaves that might have blown in.

Another adaptation is the cilia, or hair-like fibers, that line the outside of the trap. When the trap closes, these weave together, just like when you lace your fingers together. This prevents the insect from escaping and allows the trap to close tightly.

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