The Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) occurs in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. Due to overcollecting, the plant has been declared threatened with endangerment in its native habitat. A herbaceous wetland perennial, Venus fly traps grow in wetlands and are widely coveted as a houseplant. The small carnivorous plant captures unwitting prey in its clam-shell foliage to collect much-needed nutrients.
The Venus fly trap grows to 4 to 6 inches in height. Its foliage grows in a rosette shape. Leaves appear as a soft green stem with a clam-shell-shaped trap protruding from the end. The trap's interior often appears red or yellow. The ends of the leaf blades produce a sweet nectar to lure insects to the clam-shell traps. The Venus fly trap grows from small, white rhizomes.
The clam-shell traps have small hairs protruding from their outer edges. These hairs alert the plant to prey. When the leaves are brushed, the plant clamps shut to trap the unsuspecting insect within its depth. The plant knows the difference between an insect or a leaf. If the clam-shell is triggered shut by a leaf, it promptly opens back up and expels the unwanted meal.
Once the Venus fly trap catches an insect, it begins to secrete a digestive enzyme within the trap. The enzyme breaks down the insect over the course of three to five days so the plant is able to digest the nutrients. Once the insect is completely digested, the clam-shell reopens.
In its wild habitat, the Venus fly trap lives only in a location that offers 80 percent humidity. It requires constantly moist soil and is unable to withstand even a short period of drought. The plant thrives in full sunlight.
The Venus fly trap is widely marketed as a houseplant but requires very specialized care to survive in domestic cultivation. To live for an extended time period out of its natural habitat, the plant requires care in a greenhouse or terrarium and will rarely live in a house environment for more than a few months.
In May and June the Venus fly trap produces small, white blossoms. Seed pods appear six to eight weeks after flowering and contain tiny, black seeds. The seeds germinate easily once placed in substrate. The Venus fly trap does not begin flowering until it reaches three to four years of age. The plant can also be propagated with leaf cuttings and root division.