Carnivorous plants are distinguished by their diet, which in addition to the nutrients they take from the soil and produce from the sun, includes insects. The ability to capture and consume insect prey enables carnivorous plants to thrive in areas where soil quality if generally poor. Though found throughout the world, carnivorous plants generally call to mind the species that lurk in humid sub-tropical swamps and forests. However, several species have adapted to survive in colder climates, and these species can be found throughout Canada.
Pitcher plants are generally found in tropical regions except for a single species, Sarracenia purpurea or the northern pitcher plant, found in Canada. The pitcher plant's genus was named after Michel Sarrazin, said to be the founder of Canadian science, who first investigated the northern pitcher plant. Pitcher plants live in boggy regions of Southern Canada. The leaves grow into hollow tubes that fill with water, in which insects become trapped. Like all carnivorous plants, pitcher plants produce digestive enzymes that allow them to consume their prey. The secretions of the pitcher plant's leaves appear to immobilize and anesthetize insects so that the plant can digest its prey before it escapes. Northern pitcher plants produce dark red flowers and bloom as late as August in the more northerly reaches of their range.
Donald E. Schnell, author of "Carnivorous Plants of the United States and Canada," calls sundews, "jewels of the carnivorous plant world." Named for the way the sticky liquid on their leaves glistens in the sun, sundews use that liquid to capture insects, which become stuck when landing on the plant's sticky leaves. Compared to other carnivorous plants, sundews are relatively unparticular about their habitat, although they also prefer bogs and moist areas, like the edges of streams. Sundews are flowering plants, but the flowers only open during the brightest part of the day, and a single flower rarely opens more than once. Several sundews are Canadian natives, particularly in the southern and coastal areas of the country.
Butterworts are found throughout Canada, including in the far-northern regions. Butterworts prefer to grow in damp, swampy environments. Ironically butterworts rely on insect pollinators for reproduction, and the shape and color of their flowers attracts bees. The prey of butterworts tends to be much smaller. According to Schnell, a butterwort cannot handle digesting insects much larger than gnats. The leaves of butterworts trap their prey, as tiny glands secrete a sticky substance that ensnares insects that land on the leaves. When prey is captured, the leaves begin to curl inward, and the glands produce chemicals that digest the insect.