Carnivorous or insectivorous plants are plant species that have evolved differently from conventional plants, because when they grow in poor soils that do not provide sufficient nutrients for survival, they feed on insects.
For this reason, they have developed sophisticated and amazing traps that capture the bugs to subtract the necessary nutrients to live.
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Carnivorous plants: care
These plant species feed on insects and protozoa , and this differentiates them from the rest of the plants, which feed on nutrients from the earth through their roots. Due to this particular characteristic, it has developed a most peculiar morphology.
Carnivorous plants have a capture system that varies depending on the species, but includes tweezers, sticky hairs, fall or mechanical traps, and through chemical products.
Their curious shape and the rarity they represent in their species have made these plants an object of desire for many fans who grow them at home. However, it is not so easy to keep them alive, and they need very specific care.
They are very delicate plants that have grown in an environment with very specific conditions, so growing them at home initially causes acclimatization problems. In a fish tank or an aquarium we can create a terrarium that provides them, in their first days, with the right humidity and temperature.
The recommended period to keep the plant inside glass or plastic is approximately one month, after which it can live normally in a pot .
With a few exceptions, carnivores need a lot of light. Especially in some species, such as the Darlington or the Drosera, the more light they receive, the more vivid the colors of their traps, whichThey more easily attract insects .
Plants like the Dionaea, the Saracena, the Darlington and the Cephalotus need a minimum of 5 hours a day of direct sunlight, while the Drosera and the Nepenthes are more delicate and need a filter so that the traps do not burn .
Temperature is a very relative issue in carnivorous plants, and depends on whether it is a tropical species or not. The Sarracenia and the Dionaea need to go through a process of hibernation with temperatures below 5 degrees , or else they sprout weak in spring and end up dying.
Other plants such as Nepenthes or Drosera are tropical and do not need hibernation.On the contrary, they do not support temperatures below 5ºC. Not very high either, so what is recommended is between 15 and 25ºC, although it depends on each species.
One of the main things to keep in mind when caring for carnivorous plants is that they need a lot of humidity. Although this varies depending on the species, as a general rule you have to install a humidifier in the room, or put the pot in a bowl with 2 or 3 centimeters of distilled or rainwater.
Plants that need more humidity, such as Nepenthes or Dionaeas, can grow with more guarantees of survival in a terrarium , inside a fish tank or an aquarium of about 40 x 25 centimeters.
Although in this section the carnivorous plants do not require much, as they adapt easily to any terrain, it must be taken into account that they usually grow in habitats with very poor soils . That is why it avoids substrates with many nutrients, because if the plants in land with mineral salts can die.
The best substrate is sphagnum, a type of moss with a neutral pH in semi-decomposition that offers two main advantages: it is poor in nutrients and has a great capacity for absorbing water.
Types of carnivorous plants and characteristics
There are more than 600 cataloged species 14 botanical genera, but these are the preferred ones to have at home. We tell you how they are, how they catch their prey and what you need to take good care of them.
1. Dionaea Muscipula
Better known as the Venus flytrap, the Dionaea Muscipula is the best known of the carnivorous plants, and the favorite of fans of these plant species to have at home. It is especially striking for its morphology , which resembles two jaws full of teeth that close in the presence of an insect.
In their relaxed state the capture lobes are convex, but when closed they form a concave structure that encloses the insect inside. The membranes have sensitive hairs to detect the presence of the prey, which activates the capture process: they close and trap the prey in a deadly way .
Once the lobes are hermetically sealed , the digestion process begins.through the release, by the same membranes, of some enzymes.
Although its natural habitat is in the southeastern United States, it has adapted well to many other terrains around the world. For its survival , it requires a substrate free of mineral salts with a mixture of quartz sand and 50% sphagnum moss, and irrigation with acidic or distilled water. Use a PH 5 or 6, it needs a lot of sun and no fertilizers.
The secret to keeping a Dionaea Muscipula alive is to recreate its natural habitat, the swamp, as accurately as possible: always keep the substrate moist with at least one finger of water. Ideal temperature: between 18 and 26 ºC in summer and between 5 and 10 ºC in winter.
It is one of the favorites because of its spectacular shape, a true wonder of nature . It is often called a pitcher plant because of the shape of its vase-shaped organs. Its natural habitat is the tropical regions of America, where monkeys have been seen drinking rainwater from their large bowls, which is why they are often known as “monkey cups”.
It is, at the same time, a plant that needs very careful care, especially since it requires high humidity conditions . They are not very fond of sunlight, they require daily water vaporizations, they have to be pruned in spring and change the pot to favor the new flowering, and a minimum temperature of 18 ºC.
If you manage to keep your Nepenthes alive, you will have at home a spectacular plant made up of a stem from which alternate green leaves about 30 centimeters long come out. It has a tendril that helps it climb and at the end of which a large bowl is formed, crowned by a labial structure and a lid .
Inside it stores a kind of syrup produced by the plant itself, to which insects attracted by the smell of the nectar come. The prey falls into the container and they are digested .
3. Sarracenia puprurea
Its beautiful purple color means that, in addition to having a curious plant in your house , it serves as an ornamental element. That is why it is one of the favorites of carnivorous plant collectors. They are native to Texas and southeastern Canada, accustomed to acid soils that lack nutrients.
For a successful care in view of its survival, the Sarracenia prefers a mixture of peat and sand or perlite as a substrate, and it is always good to keep the pot with several centimeters of water , as it requires a large amount of water.
It is distinguished by a capture system similar to that of the Nepenthes. Its leaves form a kind of jar inside which a viscous liquid is stored. The secretion of nectar in the labial structure attracts insects, which fall into the cup and are absorbed by the enzymes synthesized by the leaves themselves.
4. Californian Darlington
Also known as the cobra lily, it has a device that makes it very special and curious: instead of storing rainwater inside its cups, it regulates it inside by pumping or expelling it as it suits it.
They have a spectacular physiology, and that is why they attract many fans of carnivorous plants. They have a hooked finish that resembles the head of cobra snakes . In the lower part of the head there is an opening where the prey perch, from which a forked tongue emanates.
The trap has window-shaped membranesthrough which the sunlight is filtered, so that the insect goes through the neck of the plant believing that it will be able to escape, until it is trapped and digested.
They are very delicate plants in terms of temperature, because in their natural habitat they grow on land furrowed by meltwater . They survive with alkaline pH and moss substrates or, eventually, peat.
5. Drosera aliciae
The Drosera has several advantages that make it a very attractive plant: in addition to having a curious shape with striking colors, it has medicinal properties (it is very suitable for calming coughs). It usually grows in high mountain areas and is in danger of extinction.
Its morphology and the mechanism of its trap make itone of the most fascinating and lethal plants: few prey manage to escape its jaws.
It is known as sun dew or drop grass, because its pink leaves with shades of fuchsia sprout hairs ending in small drops that emulate the dew in the cold mountain areas. The insects come trusting towards these tentacles covered with sugars that catch them.
The nerve endings alert the plant to the presence of an insect , and this multiplies the secretion of enzymes that end up suffocating the prey. Then it absorbs its liquids and obtains the amount of nutrients necessary to survive.
For proper care they need a lot of sunlight with plenty of distilled water.and a thermal variation between 20 and 30ºC. They need humidity between 40 and 70% and daily spraying. An always moist substrate based on peat and perlite is ideal.
This species of carnivorous plant is native to Australia and has developed a fall trap similar to Nepenthes or Sarracenia , with leaves shaped like a jar where insects fall that are digested by enzymes.
The plant is somewhat smaller than those mentioned above and the trap acquires a deep red hue with sunlight. The opening where the insects enter has a spiked structure that makes it easy to get in but difficult to get out .
It is not a very difficult plant to care for and is cultivated in all parts of the world. It requires a temperature of about 25ºC, and in the winter months they can hibernate at less than 5ºC. A substrate of moss, perlite, and sand is suitable for this carnivorous plant, which, on the other hand, requires plenty of moisture and direct sunlight .
7. Pinguicula vallisneriifolia
In humid but rough terrain without vegetation around it grows a harmless-looking plant that, however, is known as “Pinguicula flytrap” . It has long and robust green leaves among which white flowers are born that hardly suggest that they are predatory plants.
However, on the slimy-looking green leaves an oily liquid slips that attracts insects and traps them with its sticky effect. In this case, the size of the insects is smaller , and they are usually flies and mosquitoes. The same liquid that has attracted them disintegrates them so that the pinguicula can absorb their nutrients.
Pinguicula vallisneriifolia usually grows on bare rock , so a mineral-rich substrate would kill it. It can be located outside with indirect light, planted in a mixture of peat and perlite, and avoiding temperatures below -2ºC.
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