INTRODUCTION: Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) are one of the world's most well known cp (carnivorous plant). It was first described by the governor of North Carolina, Governor Arthur Dobbs in 1763. He named it flytrap sensitive and it was later known as the venus flytrap, named after Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting by a Swedish botanist. There is a myth that venus flytraps came from comets from a different planet. The myth says that it hit the border of North Carolina and South Carolina say the locals. It was also called the Tipitiwitchet. It belongs in the Droseraceae family making it related to another kind of carnivorous plant called the sundew (Drosera) and the waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda). These plants grow from bulbs underground.
DISTRIBUTION: The plant is only native to North and South Carolina. It lives in a roughly hundred-mile radius from Wilmington. New discoveries have shown that a few colonies have been found in Northern Florida, it is believed that these plants were introduced by humans in those areas. It has had success being introduced in a few other states such as Florida, New Jersey, Alabama, and Northern California .THESE PLANTS ARE ONLY FOUND NATURALLY IN THE NORTH & SOUTH CAROLINA! THEY ARE NOT TROPICAL AND DO NOT COME FROM RAIN FOREST OR STEAMING JUNGLES.
TRAPPING: The plant catches its prey just like a bear trap (you know, those hunting traps that look like metal jaws). Insects are attracted to the red pigment and/or the sweet smelling nectar excreted from the inside of the trap. Insects go to the plant thinking that it is a big piece of red meat or a flower for pollination. It goes inside the trap and to feast on the sweet nectar that is located on the rim. The bug must touch the trigger hairs at least 2 times to stimulate the trap to close. Venus flytraps have at least 3 trigger hairs on each side of the trap. The trap uses trigger hairs so as to not close accidentally on inedible objects such as drops of water, rocks, etc. A small electrical current runs through the trap causing the cells on each lobe of the trap to close. The trap does will not always close fast. Depending on the temperature, the trap will close slowly if it’s cold or fast if it is warm. Once the trap closes, the bug will be trapped inside with the spikes (cilia) on the rim acting as prison bars. While the bug is inside the trap, moving around and trying to escape out of it, the trap will be stimulated more and more and soon the trap will close all the way and seal itself. Digestive enzymes are released and the bug is digested. This is one of the fastest moving plants in the world. The trap will take at least 10 days to digest. When it is done digesting the trap will re-open with a dry exoskeleton of the victim. Wind or rain will eventually remove the exoskeleton but if it is still left, it might also attract other prey such as spiders, very small frogs or other insects which may soon fall victim to the plant as well.
There are two different types of flytrap leaves depending on the season. The autumn leaves that appear during autumn and winter have wider blades on short bases that lie in a rosette pattern on the ground (sometimes even growing on top of each other). This is most likely because of the plants nature to avoid sunlight during their. In spring and summer, the plants have long, narrow leaves on bases that are help high up. This is probably because the plants want to receive more sunlight and get a better chance at capturing flying insects during these warm, sunny seasons. Some plants leaves will not close due to the fact that they have been over stimulated and will stop functioning. This often happens when the traps have been closed on numerous occasions. This is perfectly normal as traps can only close 3-4 times in a lifetime and then die off. The trap will often have an awkward appearance where the lobes of the trap will start to curve outwards. This is so the plant can capture more sunlight for photosynthesis so it will not to be wasted.
SIZE: Plants can reach up to 4 - 6 inches in diameter if properly cared for. Traps usually range from ½- 1 inch in size. THESE PLANTS WERE MEANT TO EAT INSECTS, NOT HUMANS SO THEY WILL NOT GROW TO BE COLLOSAL COW-EATING BEAST!
SOIL: A 50/50 mixture of peat moss and sand or perlite is most common. You can use pure peat moss or pure long fibered sphagnum moss as well. Make sure the sand is for horticulture purposes only. You can also use play sand or silica sand that has been well washed to rid of the fine particles. Live sphagnum peat moss is not recommended because it can overgrow and cover your entire plant causing it to rot. Keep soil moist at all times. DO NOT USE AFRICAN VIOLET MIX OR GREEN MOSS! IT IS NOT THE SAME THING!
CONTAINERS: Plastic pots with drainage holes are best especially with a water tray included. 3-5 inch pots for single mature plants or wide bowl for a colony of plants are good. Any color pot is fine especially white however black pots tend to heat up.
WATER: Use distilled, rain, melted snow or reversed-osmosis water. Using a water tray is the best method to keep your plants moist always. Remember, these plants come from swamps and bogs where they are always wet. NEVER USE TAP! Unless… you have contacted your water department on what is in that water. Carnivorous plants are more sensitive than your normal and average everyday plants so they require purified water with as little amount of minerals as possible. Bottled water most of the time is unacceptable because most companies filter their water with sodium chloride (salt). Refrigerator water filters or carbon water filters will not do the job properly either.
LIGHT: Full to partial sun is recommended. The more light, the redder the traps will be. If you have a special variety then the whole plant can turn red or stay green. Be careful because too much light from the sun may fry your plants if it is too hot and too little light will make your leaves deformed. Shade your plants a bit if it gets too hot. Keeping them by a well lit windowsill or outside will do the job. THEY WILL NOT GROW IN THE DARK!
CLIMATE: These are warm temperate plants. They need warm summers and chilly winters and are tolerant of light frost. They love rain and hate dry desert like conditions.
GROWING PLACES: Greenhouse, terrarium (fish tanks), outdoors, windowsills, or bog gardens.
FEEDING: When we are talking about feeding plants in the carnivorous plant world, we mean it literally! Feed bugs that are 3/4 the size of the trap. If the item is too big, the trap may rot so always make sure the food is of a proper size. Food too big may also cause a fungal invasion. The plant does not need to be fed to grow. This is a very common misconception. Venus flytraps just like any other plants will still thrive and make food through photosynthesis. Of coarse feeding your plants will make your plant grow faster. Remember, these plants eat bugs because in the natural environment, there are no nutrients in the soil. NEVER FEED HAMBURGER MEAT OR TACOBELL TO YOUR PLANT LIKE THE COMMERCIALS!
FERTILIZERS: It is recommended that you never use fertilizers. Fertilizers can kill your plants because these plants were not meant to survive on soil nutrients.
HUMIDITY: 45% or more is good but it doesn’t need much for healthy growing because it will acclimate. Remember to keep the soil moist at all times and give it plenty of air circulation. I do not recommend misting your plants as it is very tedious and will only give air moisture for a short period of time before you must mist again. As long as you have a tray of water under the plant so it can soak, you are fine.
TEMPERATURES: 70 to 95 degrees F is good. Keep them cooler in winter to as low as 40 - 55 degrees F. They can survive very short periods of 100 degrees F.
TRANSPLANTING: This is best done in early spring or late winter during dormancy where the plants leaves die and the bulb from which the plant grows from is tucked under the soil. Venus flytrap roots are very sensitive and if disturbed, the plant may suffer from shock and possibly die.
FLOWERING: The plant produces small white flowers on a tall stalk in the spring. This is so that when a bug tries to pollinate the flowers, it will not be eaten by the traps below. Tall stalks may also mean that the plant is not getting enough light. I highly recommend that you cut off the stalk before it reaches any higher then 4 inches to save energy for the plant because it will have a VERY exhausting effect if you let it flower. If you do let your plant flower, then don't be surprised if your plant is dead or smaller the next season.
If you are an expert and have been growing carnivorous plants successfully for many years, you may let your plants flower. You can try to pollinate the flowers by hand using a toothpick or a small brush to tease the pollen on to the stamen or you can try rubbing the flowers together. Letting nature take its course by letting the bugs do the job for you outdoors is not such a bad idea either. It’s better to pollinate the plant yourself for a better set of seeds though. That's if you want your plant to produce seeds.
DORMANCY: Dormancy is when plants such as tulips or daffodils that grow from bulb rest. It is best done by taking the plant out of the pot during mid-autumn (Halloween), spray it with fungicide, wrap its roots with peat moss or lfs (long fibered sphagnum), put it in a plastic bag, place it in the refrigerator, and take it out in early spring (Valentine’s Day).
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area similar to the climate found in a Venus flytrap's natural habitat then you should keep your plants outside year round. Remember to take off dead plant matter to avoid fungus. Don’t worry about taking the plants in because it’s too cold, these plants live in cool climates.
PROPAGATION: Division is the most popular form of obtaining more venus flytraps. They will produce offshoots and develop into clumps of plants if not divided. Leaf cuttings are another way of getting more plants for free. You can pull a leaf off with its white base intact and place it on top of peat moss or long-fibered sphagnum moss. It will make plantlets in a few weeks if done carefully. Seeds are another way of obtaining plants. However, it is a very slow process that will take about 5 years to obtain nice sized plants. Collect the seeds from the pods when they are ripe and sow them or refrigerate them for later use. They will germinate in a few weeks if they are viable. Tissue culture is another way to propagate plants but it is for those who have a big labs and lots of money. I don’t fit in that category but I am just as happy with the other methods described previously.
TIPS: I do not recommend this plant as a beginner’s first plant. I recommend its other relatives such as a sunder or a North American pitcher plant which are much easier to care for. This is a very easy plant to grow ONLY if you follow instructions and give it the right conditions.
Patience is the key as always.
EXTRA INFO: You can find them in some of the most unexpected places such as grocery stores, plant nurseries, hardware stores, florist shops and many more places especially the internet. I’ve even found these plants in Walgreen’s pharmacies and 99 Cents Only stores. They usually come in small plastic pots with a cup on top, plastic cubes, or plastic cylinders. Choose the healthiest plant you can find. Most of the plants you will find are usually half dead from bad care already.
These plants come from the great USA in the swamps of North and South Carolina. If you ever go there to visit and see these wonderful plants, please do not collect them, they are endangered and are threatened everyday by poaching, logging, habitat destruction, construction, and pollution. You may also not collect seeds, leaves, bulbs or anything coming from this plant. If you collect them, you can face a fine up to $50,000 and/or a year in prison if you are caught. It is illegal! Take pictures instead rather then taking plants. If you want to see these plants, you can also find a local botanical garden that has them along with a collection of more carnivorous plants. You'll be surprised at how many different varieties of venus flytraps you will see there and how many other carnivorous plants as well. You can also find these plants displayed in zoos.
www.humboldt.edu/~rrz7001/ (A picture gallery)
www.terraforums.com (an online forum)
www.sarracenia.com (highly recommended for info)
www.carnivorousplants.org (the international society)
BOOKS: I recommend this book that will help you on your way to growing these plants and a few other carnivorous plants as well just like I did.
The Savage Garden
by: Peter D'Amato
You can Buy it from his website to get it autographed
or check with your local bookstores.
MORE BOOKS WILL SOON BE ADDED TO THIS LIST