The Venus flytrap is perhaps the most recognizable carnivorous plant in the world. Its leaf-like jaws adorned with fringed hairs snap shut in approximately 1/2 second when the trap is triggered. This unusual plant grows in a small region of the United States in an ecosystem where most any other plant would fail to survive.
Location of Natural Habitat
The Venus flytrap has a very limited natural growing range. Found no further north than Beaufort County, North Carolina, and no farther south than the Santee River in South Carolina, the Venus flytrap has a relatively small endemic range of approximately 700 miles. This carnivorous plant does not grow naturally anywhere else in the world.
Features of Habitat
The section of the Carolinas is an ecotone, a transitional zone between two distinct major ecological zones: the pocosin or a hilly coastal swampy area and the pine savanna, a flat grassland area. The ecotone is a wet, acidic sandy soil base with very low fertility and does not support other types of plant life.
Venus Flytrap in This Habitat
The Venus flytrap is tolerant of the flooding nature of its surroundings. During drought, the plant simply goes dormant only to awaken when conditions improve. The Venus flytrap is highly fire resistant. When fires do occur in its habitat, the remaining plants react with increased growth vigor indicating it benefits from the effects of the burning.
Why This Habitat?
The highly acidic nature of the soil in this ecotone makes nitrogen unavailable to plants in the traditional way. The bacteria that turn ammonia from protein decay into nitrite and nitrate ions cannot function in the acidic soil here rendering the nitrogen content too low to sustain plant life. The Venus flytrap has adapted to find a method of obtaining nitrogen through the insects it traps. It also explains why virtually no other plants survive in this ecotone.
Venus Flytrap Habitat in Captivity
Many people are intrigued by the idea of growing a Venus flytrap at home. Provide an acidic soil with a pH of four such as Sphagnum moss. Use only pure water such as rain water, melted snow or distilled water. Venus fly traps need six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily; or use two 40-watt bulbs in a shop light suspended just a few inches above the plants to simulate this. Light should be given 12 to 16 hours a day from May to September. From October to April, light should be gradually reduced and the plant should be moved to cooler rooms where it can overwinter with an average temperature of 50 to 60 F. Venus flytraps should be allowed to catch their own food whenever practical. No more than one or two small insects should be fed every two weeks.