My neighbour asked me to take care of her pot of Venus Flytraps while she was away on holiday as they had been a gift from someone very dear to her. To me they looked like a bunch of happy jazz musicians having a good time in their little bowl. I googled them out of interest and was quite intrigued by what I read.
These rather alien looking plants with their hungry mouths and spiky teeth are true to their name – they trap and eat flies and other small insects. The prey has to be alive when it is caught, because the movement of the insect inside the trap tells the plant that it has caught a bug worthy of consumption. They are hugely efficient and do not waste energy trapping stuff with no nutritional value.
There are several tiny trigger hairs on the surface of the Flytrap’s curved leaf, and a hinge-like thick vein in the middle. If an insect touches a hair the trap prepares to close, but one touch only will not cause it to shut. If a second touch follows, the trap snaps closed in a tenth of a second. And as the prey struggles to escape it touches the hairs even more, causing the plant to close more tightly and release digestive enzymes. By fighting for its life the insect is actually telling the plant to kill and eat it. Digestion takes about ten days, after which the trap opens, and it is ready to eat again. Each trap is only good for 4 to 6 catches, and after that it withers and falls off.
A fascinating plant.