Carnivorous plants occur all over the world. Although most plants can only derive nutrition from the soil, these plants have the unique ability to absorb nutrients from the insects which they lure, trap, and then digest by various means. Although many people believe the plants to be native only to tropical or humid regions, some species live as far north as Alaska or Siberia. Ontario has a large number of native carnivorous plant species.
Sundews can be found in many places throughout the world, but only one species can survive the cold temperatures of Ontario. This is the hardy sundew, also called the hardy Drosera, as this is the name of the genus. The name "sundew" refers to the gleaming drops of sticky substance that appear at the ends of the plant's tentacles. A sundew will have many of these, which attract insects and then adhere to them. When an insect makes contact, the tentacles move to ensnare the prey. The insect will be digested by enzymes in the tentacles' secretions and will then be absorbed. Sundews generally occur in bogs and places with poor soil.
Butterwort plants can be found in a variety of environments, from bogs to moss to rocky soil. Pinguicula vulgaris is the species native to Ontario. The leaves have glands that produce sticky secretions, so that when a small enough insect lands it becomes adhered to the surface. The leaf then bends slightly to increase contact with the insect and prevent it from escaping. The insect is then digested.
Purple Pitcher Plant
As indicated by its name, the primary features of this plant are its purple color and the pitcher-shaped insect trap. It is smaller than most other pitcher plants and generally lives for only one or two years. As with other pitcher plants, insects are attracted to the trap by color, nectar or the presence of water. The walls of the pitcher are slippery so that once the insect crawls in, it cannot escape. The insect will slowly drown and then will be digested by digestive enzymes produced by the plant. Digestion can be aided by commensal organisms, which are organisms that live symbiotically in the pitcher, such as mosquito larvae. The pitcher provides them with shelter and resources, and the commensal organisms help with digestion in turn. This species can be found in the forests and mountains of Ontario.
The bladderwort is one of the most complex plants currently known, due to its sophisticated method of capturing prey. It lives only in fresh water. The plant has small underwater bladders which are very sensitive to contact. If an insect or other small creature touches a trigger hair, the bladder will expand and suck the insect--along with any nearby water--into itself. This process occurs extremely rapidly. The insect will then be digested as the plant secretes enzymes into the bladder.