Information About the Meat Eating Plants


Meat eating plants are more commonly called carnivorous plants. These plants obtain much of their nutrition from trapping and digesting insects and other creatures, rather than from the soil. For that reason, they are often found growing and thriving in poor soil that would not support other plant life. Well-known carnivorous plants include the yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava), which is native to the United States, and the popular Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).


A meat-eating plant must meet three requirements to be called carnivorous, according to The International Carnivorous Plant Society. First, the plant must have developed a mechanism to trap prey. Second, the plant must be able to digest its prey. Third, the plant must be able to absorb the nutrients from the pray and must also have a need or use for the nutrients.


There are over 670 species of carnivorous plants, according to The International Carnivorous Plant Society, and many of those have subspecies and cultivars. Utricularia, or bladderworts, are the largest family of meat-eating plants. Sarraceniales, or pitcher plants, are easily recognized by their distinctive "pitchers," which are modified leaves. The Nepenthes and Triphyophyllum carnivorous species are famous because of their large sizes: These vines can grow over 30 feet long.


Meat-eating plants live all over the world. Bladderworts are found on every continent save Antartica, according to the International Carnivorous Plant Society. Some are tropical in nature, while others are very cold-hardy. Sundews, Venus Flytraps and pitcher plants all are native to the southeastern portion of the United States, according to National Geographic.


Meat eating plants have traps that are designed to capture prey, usually in the form of a small insect. The traps take one of five forms, according to the Botanical Society of America. The first are called "pitfall traps," traps that insects fall into and cannot escape from, such as the throats of pitcher plants, which are filled with digestive juices. The second type of traps are called "flypaper" traps, sticky areas that the insects stick to when they perch on the plant. Sundews, which are covered with a glittering, sticky substance, are an example of this type of carnivorous plant. The third type of carnivorous plant trap is the snap trap. These traps snap shut on the insect when the tiny hairs around the trap are triggered. The Venus flytrap is the most famous example of a plant that has this type of trap. Lobster-pot traps lure an insect down a twisted path from which it cannot find its way out. Suction traps, which are only found on bladderworts, are underwater traps that use water pressure (and a hinged "door") to rapidly suck prey into the trap.


Many home gardeners enjoy raising carnivorous plants. They can grow in poor soil and are often grown in terrariums, as many of these plants require very wet, boggy soil. Most also enjoy warm, humid temperatures. Carnivorous plants spend so much energy on their trapping mechanisms that they do not have much left over for the process of photosynthesis, according to National Geographic. For this reason, they need to be exposed to plenty of sunlight--a full day's worth--whether grown indoors or in an outdoor landscape.

Keywords: meat eating plants, about carnivorous plants, growing carnivorous plants

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. Previously, she worked as an educator and currently writes academic research content for EBSCO publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.