Carnivorous plants live all over the world but the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is native to select boggy areas in North and South Carolina.
Early observations of the flytrap revealed that when an insect contacts a hair and within 20 seconds contacts another, the trap closes. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value. The trap also doesn’t close right away to allow for extremely small insects to escape, because of their low nutritional value also. Don’t want to go wasting digestive juices for nothing!
Last week, new discoveries were made when German researchers monitored Venus flytraps electrical impulses. Flytraps were manually stimulated by mimicking prey behavior, while researchers observed the plants’ responses.
The scientists found that the trigger hairs are linked to two key areas in the plant: motor tissue, which physically closes the trap and the endocrine system, which digests the prey. After two touches have sprung the trap, the insect’s struggling against the hairs prompts the release of digestive juices.
It was also observed that certain gland cells in the flytraps permitted the plants to absorb and store large amounts of sodium. Researchers are not certain how the plants use the element, however proposed that it might be stored in the stem, which may help to preserve the correct balance of water in the plant’s cells.
Taking Care of Audrey II*
Venus Flytraps are quite easy to grow, as long as they are given the proper growing conditions.
- Flytrap should be grown in very bright light, but not in direct sun.
- A warm, humid environment, with a constant supply of moisture is ideal. Hint: Elevate the pot by placing pebbles under it so that the base of the pot is barely in contact with the water, not submerged.
- The potting mixture should contain of a mix of 70% peat or sphagnum moss and 30% perlite or coarse pumice.
- Flytraps are extremely sensitive to chemicals, so you should only use distilled water or rain water. If it is absolutely necessary to use tap water, allow it to rest for 24-48 hours in an open container, to allow the chlorine and any other chemicals to dissipate. That is of course if you have city water.
- The insects which they consume provide them with all the nutrients they need, so do not fertilize them.
- Your Flytrap will consume 2 or 3 small insects each month. Dead flies and insects can be used, provided that they died of natural causes and not by poisons.
- Never, ever, ever feed your Venus Flytrap any hamburger. The fat content in burger will be fatal to your plant.
- Artificially springing the trap, i.e. poking it with your finger, drains the Flytrap’s energy. If this is done too often, the fly trap head will become less sensitive and possibly die.
- Always keep dead leaves and heads cut off to prevent fungal infections.
Flytraps require a period of dormancy during the winter of about three months. At this time, much (if not all), of the foliage will die back. The entire planter should be moved to an area where the temperature will remain at 45-55 F or the bulb may be removed, sprayed with fungicide, wrapped in damp, live sphagnum moss, placed in a plastic bag and moved to a cool area.
*This was the name of the plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors”
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl