Carnivorous Plants in Florida
Florida is home to more species of carnivorous plants than any other state in the United States. Many grow only in Florida like the colorful pitcher plants. Carnivorous plants have adapted ways to combat poor boggy soils that do not offer much nutrition. They trap and digest insects then use the nutrients to supplement what the soil can not provide. Many areas in Florida provide a perfect habitat for these plants with open fields and boggy wetlands.
Florida is known for its native species of pitcher plants. Pitcher plants catch their prey using a passive pitfall trap. The long leaves are modified to create a tube that holds a small amount of water at the bottom. The top of the tube is slippery and secretes a sweet nectar that bugs are attracted to. When the bug lands on the rim of the pitcher it falls in and drowns in the water, then gets digested by the plant.
Of the six species of pitcher plants in Florida, one of the most notable is Sarracenia leucophylla, which has 3-foot-long tubes that are colored dark red or purple and white on top arranged in elaborate patterns that catch the light. This species occurs primarily in northwest Florida in open wet grassland and peat bogs.
Catopsis berteroniana is one of only two known carnivorous bromeliads. It grows epiphytically, meaning directly on trees without soil, in southern Florida. It grows both on trees that shade the plant and in areas exposed to full sun. Specimens can often be found growing on telephone poles.
It looks like a typical bromeliad, similar to the top of a pineapple. The thick green leaves form a reservoir in the center of the plant that fills with water when it rains. The base of leaves are covered with a slippery white waxy powder that causes unwary insects to fall into the water, drown, then slowly get digested.
Venus flytraps, scientific name Dionaea muscipula, are native to North and South Carolina and not to Florida but they has become naturalized in the state in several locations. According to Barry Rice, author of "Growing Carnivorous Plants," they were originally planted as scattered seeds in the 1930s by a carnivorous plant nursery owner in the area.
Venus flytraps have one of the most unique trapping mechanism of all the carnivorous plants in Florida. The ends of the leaf are modified to create small clamp traps with edges fringed with hairs. Inside the trap are tiny trigger hairs that activate the trap when an insect disturbs them.