While inadvertently our mind might wonder to Venus Flytrap, the most famous representative, the plant world has way more weird carnivorous plants than this. Most of them pretty, some of them not looking the part, but in the end all deadly.
1. Cobra Plant (Darlingtonia californica)
Resembling a striking cobra ready to strike, this plant’s tubular pitcher has a forked “tongue” that lures insects to their doom. The Cobra Plant is remarkably flexible when it comes to hydration too, being able to collect rainwater. It’s the only member of its genus and is native to North America.
2. Rainbow Plant (Byblis)
Unlike other carnivorous plants, the Rainbow Plant mimics the look of a delicate, harmless plant. When in fact this plant traps insects with its sticky goo-like secretions.
3. Red Ink Sundew (Drosera erythrorhiza)
This one got its name from the red-colored sap that is released from the glands on the leaves when the plant is digesting the prey. It’s like a “reserved” sign on a restaurant table.
4. Portuguese Sundew (Drosophyllum lusitanicum)
A sundew that uses its leaves to catch the prey but not by using a sticky substance but by simply curling the leaves inwards thus making it very difficult for prey to escape.
5. Waterwheel (Aldrovanda vesiculosa)
Switching to aquatic carnivorous plants, we have the waterwheel plant. Free floating, endangered and deadly for small aquatic invertebrates, it features revolving traps arranged in a whorl. When an insect touches trigger hairs, the trap snaps shut in the blink of an eye.
6. Parrot Pitcher (Sarracenia psittacina)
Its pitcher looks like a parrot’s beak, adding to its unusual appearance. This unusual shape is an adaptation to attract, capture, and digest insects. Insects are lured to the pitcher by nectar secretions, and they often slip and fall into the pitcher-shaped trap, where they are unable to escape due to the slippery decor. This species is also known for thriving in wetland habitats, such as bogs and seepage slopes.
7. Corkscrew Plant (Genlisea)
Genlisea species have tiny underground traps that operate like vacuums. When an insect triggers the trapdoor, it’s sucked inside, where it’s broken down and digested. So what might look like a simple, funny plant, it’s in fact a cruel predator.
8. Tropical Butterwort (Pinguicula moranensis)
Another carnivorous plant that doesn’t look the part, the butterwort is deadly to small insects. In fact, if you decide to add this plant to your urban jungle collection you might notice that its leaves are almost always covered in dead insects. Its sticky leaves never fail to deliver.
9. Triphyophyllum Peltatum
Triphyophyllum peltatum is a climbing carnivorous plant native to the rainforests of Central and West Africa. Unlike many other carnivorous plants, it doesn’t have conspicuous traps or leaves covered in sticky substances. Instead, it captures prey through a unique mechanism, only some leaves developing the insect-catching system. In fact, in some cases the plant never turns into a carnivore at all.
10. Fanged Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes bicalcarata)
Nepenthes bicalcarata is known for its distinctive pitcher morphology, which sets it apart from many other pitcher plant species. Each pitcher features a pair of “fangs” or “spurs” on the underside of the lid, giving the plant its common name. This species is also known for producing some of the largest pitchers in the Nepenthes genus. These pitchers can grow to over 30 centimeters (12 inches) in length.
11. Toilet Plant (Nepenthes lowii)
Nepenthes lowii is an epiphytic pitcher plant, which means it grows on trees or other surfaces rather than in the ground. One of the most remarkable aspects of Nepenthes lowii and also the reason it has this name, is its mutualistic relationship with tree shrews (Tupaia montana). The plant offers these small mammals a sugary nectar reward that attracts them to the pitchers. In the process of feeding on the nectar, the tree shrews defecate into the pitchers, providing a valuable source of nitrogen to the plant. This nutrient-rich feces serves as a significant supplement to the plant’s carnivorous diet, which typically consists of insects.
12. Roridula dentata
Roridula dentata practices a form of indirect carnivory, benefiting from the presence of the insects without actively digesting them. This mutualism helps protect the plant from herbivorous insects while allowing it to reproduce through pollination as the insects pass the pollen from one flower to another.
13. Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The Venus flytrap is known for its iconic snap trap mechanism. Each leaf has two hinged lobes that contain sensitive trigger hairs on their inner surfaces. When an insect or small prey touches these trigger hairs, it causes the lobes to snap shut rapidly, trapping the prey inside where it meets its demise. Over the years this plant has evolved, now having a sophisticated mechanism to distinguish between prey and false alarms. It requires the prey to touch the trigger hairs at least two times in succession to initiate the trapping process. This adaptation helps conserve energy and prevent unnecessary closing of the trap in response to non-prey stimuli.
Recommended reading next: The 15 Weirdest Plants You Can Grow At Home
How many carnivorous plants are there?
According to Natural History Museum UK, there are 630 recognized species of carnivorous plants distributed across various genera and families. These plants are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they have evolved a wide range of trapping mechanisms to capture and digest prey.
Why do carnivorous plants eat insects?
Nutrient bonus: Carnivorous plants typically grow in environments with nutrient-poor soils, such as acidic bogs, wetlands, and sandy soils. In these habitats, essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are often scarce. To compensate for this nutrient deficiency, carnivorous plants have evolved to capture and digest insects and other small prey, which provide them with vital nutrients.
Competition: In nutrient-poor habitats, competition for available nutrients can be fierce. By preying on insects, carnivorous plants gain a competitive advantage over other plants that rely solely on soil nutrients.