Carnivorous Plants!

Make room for a new holiday, Cinco de Mayo! This year May 5th is all about carnivorous plants.

First proposed in 2020 by Krzysztof Banaś of Poland, World Carnivorous Plant Day will be celebrated for the first time today! As stated on the International Carnivorous Plant Society’s website, this day was created to bring “carnivorous plants into the spotlight of public awareness and education” and will be celebrated on the first Wednesday of May.

Before you call all of your friends to wish them a Happy World Carnivorous Plant Day, I’ve compiled some fun facts about these unique plants incase you need a few talking points 🙂

The ability to thrive in nutrient-poor bog soils by trapping insects, either actively or passively, for food is the signature adaptation of all carnivorous plants. Perhaps the most well-known variety is the Venus flytrap, but did you know you don’t have to travel to an exotic jungle to find one? Dionaea muscipula lives here in the United States! Most densely populated along the east coast of North and South Carolina, this is the only Venus flytrap native to the United States and has an appetite for any insect that happens to find its way into the plant’s ciliated (the spines along the rim of the trap are actually a type of hair) leaves. It’s conservation status is vulnerable.

Venus flytrap near Wilmington, NC (Photo: altmanegriffin, iNaturalist)

David Attenborough narrates the demise of a fly:

The Venus flytrap falls into the Sundew (Droseraceae) family. This is a group of insectivorous plants with an active trapping mechanism. 11 are native to North America.

Sundew leaves are covered with very sensitive glandular (secretion producing) hairs. Each hair is tipped with a sticky fluid that sparkles in the sun like dewdrops and attracts insects. Insects caught in the hairs seldom escape and are held tightly against the leaf surface and digested. Two sundew species are found in Maine: round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and common spatulate-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia), the latter being less common. The leaves of both species are only a few inches tall and blend in incredibly well with Sphagnum, so they are very difficult to spot if you are not actively looking for them.

Round-leaved sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) (Photo: rubroboetus, iNaturalist)

Pitcher plants (Sarraceniaceae) on the other hand are easy to find. Their large pitcher acts as a passive trapping mechanism. 10 species are found in North America: 9 of the Sarracenia genus and 1 of the Darlingtonia genus.

Purple pitcher plants (S. purpurea) are generally found in the northcentral, northeastern, and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, while the yellow pitcher plant (S. flava) is found throughout the southeast. The California pitcher plant’s (Darlingtonia californica) range, however, is much more restricted being found only in northern California and southern Oregon.

To feature these wonderful plants, the International Carnivorous Plant Society is hosting a FREE online conference all day featuring botanists, horticulturalists, and other enthusiasts to share their knowledge of and experiences with carnivorous plants from around the world.

As always, never pick plants from the wild. As interesting as carnivorous plants are, they require a very specific environment to thrive that is difficult to replicate at home. Taking pictures or simply admiring their beauty for a moment are the best ways to conserve plants. If you’d like to grow your own, you can buy ethically harvested seeds from the ICPS’s website!

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