Carnivorous Plants in the USA

While most plants die in nutrient-poor soil, carnivorous plants do not. Instead, these plants lure and catch prey in order to supplement their diet. The United States is home to dozens of species of carnivorous plants, many of which are native exclusively to the U.S.

Cobra Lily

The cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), sometimes referred to as a California pitcher plant, is a carnivorous plant of the Sarraceniaceae family. The cobra lily attracts flies and other insects with its odor, causing prey to fly into the plant's pitcher. The pitcher then digests its prey using symbiotic bacteria and protozoa. The cobra lily is named after its resemblance to an upright cobra snake. The plant's coloring varies depending on temperature; cobra lilies in colder temperatures are a light green, while cobra lilies living in full sun are both green and red. Though rarely seen in the wild, the plant grows in bogs in Northern California and Oregon.

Venus Fly Trap

The most famous carnivorous plant, the venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula), uses a trap that closes upon prey if its sensitive trigger hairs are stimulated. The plant then releases digestive enzymes that digest the insect. When the venus fly trap flowers, it grows blooms about 6 inches over the traps so that insects can safely pollinate the plant without being eaten. The venus fly trap is native only to North and South Carolina in the United Sates, growing within a 60 mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina. The plant thrives in the nutrient-low soils of swamps and bogs, though venus fly traps are difficult to find in the wild thanks to over collecting.

Primrose Butterwort

The primrose butterwort (Pinguicula primuliflora) is a carnivorous plant native to the southeastern United States. The plant has delicate hairs on its leaves that secrete a sticky substance that lures and traps insects. The plant secretes digestive enzymes that allow it to absorb the "melted" insect. Primrose butterworts produce white flowers early in the spring, and undergo a period of winter dormancy when temperatures begin to drop. They are a popular plant for cultivation because of their relatively lax care requirements compared to other carnivorous plants. The primrose butterwort can be found in nutrient-poor soil throughout northwestern Florida and all the way over to the southeastern side of Mississippi.

Keywords: carnivorous plants, venus fly trap, cobra lily, primrose butterwort

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.