The Venus flytrap is one of the mysteries of the plant kingdom, one of the few plants that catches and eats bugs. Unlike some tropical plants that have a non-moving insect trap, the Venus flytrap has a closing hinge that reacts to flies that cross its path. Native to a small area in North and South Carolina, the Venus flytrap is a truly exotic American plant.
According to Botany.org, the Venus flytrap takes nutrients from the air and soil just like other plants. But it has adapted to low fertility soil, meaning it does not receive all of its nutrients that way. Bugs that cross the plant's path provide extra nutrients that help it thrive.
The trap is made of two halves that appear to be hinged. The halves move together by bending. On the tips of the hinges are tiny hairs, usually three of them, that are sensitive to movement. When an insect moves across the trigger hairs, the trap closes around it.
Once trapped, the insect is slowly consumed. Inside the trap are tiny glands that secrete digestive juices, which slowly kill and dissolve the insect. Nutrients are absorbed through the same glands over three to five days. The trap reopens once the bug is digested.
The Venus flytrap grows only in a 65- to 75-mile radius around the Wilmington, North Carolina, area. Adaptation to the home requires recreating the muggy, bog-like conditions of the plant's habitat, which is usually done in a terrarium or fish tank. The Iowa State University Extension recommends keeping the tank between 70 to 75 degrees F during the summer and 55 to 60 during the winter.
Place 1 inch of loose gravel at the bottom of the tank. Add a moist, slightly acidic growing medium on top; two parts sphagnum peat moss and one part coarse sand is suitable. Moisten with rain or distilled water. Do not use tap water, which may be too alkaline or contain minerals that may hurt the plant.