Why Do Carnivorous Plants Eat Meat?


There are 670 different species of carnivorous plants. They live in poor soil and trap prey to obtain the additional nutrients they need.


The father of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, wrote a thesis on carnivorous plants. His article is free for download by the Gutenberg Press (see Resources).


The most common nutrient carnivorous plants seek is nitrogen. Other nutrients include potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.


Three attributes determine whether a plant is carnivorous according to Barry Rice, a leading expert. They include: adaptation to capture prey; a way to digest the prey in a way that it can be absorbed; a way to absorb the nutrients and benefit from them. Plants that posses some but not all three of these attributes are semi-carnivorous.


There are five basic different methods carnivorous plants use to capture prey. The names describe the action of the trap well: pitfall traps; sticky traps; lobster pot traps; suction traps; snap traps.


Some plants capture vegetable debris, cultivate algae or take in pollen. These plants may actually be omnivorous, taking in both plant and animal nutrients.


  • International Carnivorous Plant Society
  • Project Gutenberg Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

About this Author

Lynn Farris has been conducting management studies, writing technical articles and contributing to local newspapers since 1984. Having traveled throughout the world, Farris now lives in Costa Rica, teaches English and writes a column for the "National Examiner" on Costa Rica. Farris holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in speech communications and psychology from Case Western Reserve University.

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