Carnivorous plants

Curiosities of carnivorous plants

We talk a lot in this blog about carnivorous plants, and although they could pass for common plants, they actually have a characteristic that makes them totally different beings. They carry out photosynthesis, yes; They produce seeds and, from the time they germinate until they die -in their natural habitat-, they stay in the same place. But… unlike the vast majority of plant species, they obtain many (or in some cases all) the nutrients they need from the bodies of those insects that have fallen into their traps.

Therefore, it is not surprising that they are sometimes thought to be quite similar to animals. In reality, the line that separates the plant kingdom from the animal seems to be getting thinner, since both of us have very similar needs. Perhaps that is why the curiosities of the carnivorous plants that are known are surprising to us.

There are certain questions that many ask about carnivorous plants, so we will answer them.

Where are carnivorous plants found?

Sarracenia in habitat

We can find carnivorous plants on the five continents, concentrated mainly in the tropical and subtropical regions. They live in soils poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, and generally acidic. Likewise, some survive in areas close to water courses, where this liquid takes with it all, or almost all, of the nutritional wealth that the soil in which they have rooted may have.

Taking this into account, we can know what type of substrate to use: unfertilized blond peat or sphagnum moss, mixed with vermiculite and/ or perlite. In this article about sowing we will tell you which is the best mix for each genus of carnivores.

How long do carnivorous plants live?

It is not clear how long they get to live. It is known that, for example, dionaea can live 20-25 years, a life expectancy that is surely similar to that of sundew. But the Sarracenia can live something more.

In any case, carnivorous plants tend to produce many suckers throughout their lives, so even if the “mother plants” dry out, you can still enjoy their offspring.

What does a carnivorous plant need to live?

Image – Wikimedia/ Dals093838

Carnivorous plants need several things in order to live and develop normally:

  • Light: it is important that they are in a bright area. The Sarracenia, in addition, must be exposed to the star king, so they are not advisable to keep indoors. What’s more, if you grow carnivores at home, a lamp that stimulates their growth is essential.
  • Humidity: they grow near water courses, so the humidity must be high. But be careful: don’t wet the plant; it is better that you put glasses with water around it or a humidifier. If you live on an island, near the coast or in an area where the humidity is already high, you should not do anything.
  • Mild temperatures: this will depend a lot on the species. For example, Heliamphora are carnivores from tropical but cool climates; Sarracenia and Drosophyllum live in areas where there may be weak frosts, as do Dionaea and northern and subtropical sundews. In contrast, tropical sundews and Nepenthes are ‘pure’ tropical plants; that is to say, that in order to survive the temperatures have to be kept above 18ºC and below 35ºC.
  • Irrigation: it has to be frequent. Carnivorous plants need the substrate to be always humid, since they cannot stand drought. Of course, you have to use rainwater, distilled, or a very weak mineralization (in Spain a very advisable one is that of the Bezoya brand).
  • Substrates without fertilization: what is more, in cultivation, natural blond peat and/ or sphagnum moss are used, without fertilizers. If black peat, mulch, etc. is used, the roots will die.

What do carnivorous plants eat?

The short answer is: insects, be they adults and/ or larvae, but it must also be said that drowned rats have been found in the traps of some of the larger Nepenthes, such as N. attenboroughii. Some are better ‘hunters’ than others.

For example, the Pinguicula and the Drosera are the most effective at hunting animals as small and annoying as mosquitoes (and believe me, they can have their leaves/ traps covered by these insects). In contrast, Sarracenia and Dionaea tend to hunt more flies and bees, in my experience.

Can you feed them?

Yes of course. In fact, if you have them indoors, it is advisable to feed them once a week. But be careful: do not give them insects that you have killed with insecticides, otherwise they will become intoxicated and die. Ideally, they are alive. In addition, they must be small, since if they are large the leaves will have to work harder and, also, they could turn black.

On the other hand, if they are abroad it is not necessary (nor recommended) that you feed them. Carnivorous plants are carnivorous because insects hunt alone. So you won’t have to worry about this.

What do you think of carnivorous plants? You like them?

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