Although there are 625 discovered species of carnivorous plants in the world, it is possible to categorize them in two terms. The first term is “active,” which is supposed to represent carnivorous plants that will visually trap insects and turn them into food. The other term is “passive,” meaning that the plants belonging in this category will just wait for insects or prey to fall into their mouths and will eventually be dissolved by a liquid found in that specific part of the plant. Besides these two terms, carnivorous plants can also be divided by their methods or styles of luring and trapping prey.
This type of plant, as its name suggests, looks like a pitcher that has a pit-like body where the unwary prey usually falls into. Inside the pit is a digestive liquid that slowly dissolves an insect’s body to turn it into nutrients for the plant. Most insects are attracted by the cavity of the pitcher plant that is formed by the cupped leaf at the top, and once they touch that cavity, they will fall down the pit easily because of its slippery peristome. Once they are inside the pit, the insects will no longer be able to fly or climb back up because of the phytotelmata, the digestive liquid found inside the pit that coats the entire body of the insect so that it won’t be able to use its wings or legs easily.
The sundew plant, often called Drosera, has a body covered by mucilaginous glands that can either look like stalks or tentacles depending on the species. These tentacles excrete a sticky substance that attracts and traps insects. The plant will then use enzymes to dissolve the insect’s body and turn it into nutrients. Some species of the Drosera will even clasp the prey into their grasp as it tries to escape. It would take about 15 minutes before the insect dies, and the plant can finally dissolve its body into nutrients.
The Venus flytrap (photo above) is arguably the most popular carnivorous plant, mainly due to the fact that it has such a quick and violent method of killing its prey, which is to clamp it between two of its strong leaves that can flatten softer insects and arachnids. At the outer part of its leaves are the strands of hair that are sensitive to movement. If an insect touches two strands within 20 seconds, the Venus flytrap will automatically clamp the prey in its leaves. Like the first two plants in this list, the Venus flytrap also dissolves the insect’s body for nutrition.
The bladderwort, scientifically known as Utricularia, is a carnivorous plant that has bladder-like leaves that imprisons prey inside. Most aquatic species of the bladderwort have antennae that guide insects and planktons inside the bladder, and once they are inside, the hole or the mouth of the plant will become smaller, and the bladder itself will get wider to prepare the dissolving process. The prey will no longer escape the bladderwort’s clutches, as the plant has a vacuum that pulls the prey within the bladder. They usually consume smaller microscopic animals like rotifers and protozoa, but bigger species can trap tadpoles, mosquito larvae, or nematodes inside its bladder-like leaves.
The butterwort is a large group of carnivorous bog plants that traps its prey within its grasps using a sticky substance called mucilage that is found in their leaves. These leaves are typically green or pink in color, and they are smoother than most leaves found in plants. Upon closer inspection, you will notice the tiny strands of hair, which look similar to those found in the sundew plants but are smaller and almost microscopic in size. Once an insect touches these strands, they will become trapped on the surface of the leave, and as they struggle to escape, they will activate more strands to excrete more mucilage that sticks to the prey. The most number of butterwort species are specifically found in Central and South America, 13 species are situated in Europe, nine are in North America, and a few species of the butterwort plant are located in the northern portion of Asia.