Carnivorous plants possess some of Mother Nature's most ingenious adaptations. They can survive in infertile soils and wet locations where other plants would struggle for food. Their secret is the ability to trap and digest insects, frogs or small mammals instead of relying on photosynthesis for nourishment. More than 600 plant species have abilities of this kind, according to the Botanical Society of America. Texas has 15 of those species, from tiny aquatic to showy garden plants.
Yellow Pitcher Plant
Yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia alata), also known as flycatcher plant, grows wild in the marshes of eastern and southeastern Texas, where rainfall is more abundant than elsewhere in the state. Between 6 and 28 inches high, this is the only member of the pitcher plant family native to Texas. Plants bloom in April and May with downward-facing yellow flowers. Their unusual styles--tubes leading to the flower's ovaries--resemble inverted umbrellas.
Leaves, hollow funnels with partially covered entrances, trap water. Insects entering the funnels slide down their slippery interiors into the water. Downward-facing hairs prevent their escape. Digestive enzymes speed their decomposition, providing a high-nitrogen meal. Plant it in mud or wet sandy, loamy or clay soils. Yellow pitcher plant, states the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is a good addition to water gardens. Ingested in high quantities, however, its roots and leaves may be toxic.
Humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba), a carnivorous perennial, has no roots. This aquatic plant lives in microorganism-rich, shallow water along the edges of streams, rivers and ponds. Its clusters of four to six yellow flowers appear above the water on 6-inch stalks from May to August.
Resembling miniature snapdragons, blooms have lower petals with central humps. Hair-like leaves only 1/16-inch wide have air bladders that let the 2-to-3-inch-high plants float. The lidded bladders also trap insects, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Humped bladderwort needs full sun.
Dwarf sundew (Drosera brevifolia) is a tiny--1.25 inches across--perennial with a rosette of paddle-shaped, reddish-green leaves that normally lie flat against the ground. It grows in wet ditches and the east Texas pinelands. Its 4-to-5-inch stem produces several pale pink flowers that open in succession. Glands that release nectar and a sticky substance cover the leaves' surfaces. The sticky leaves, after trapping insects drawn to the nectar, slowly curl around and digest them, according to the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.