Carnivorous plants, Houseplants of the month of September

Carnivorous plants, or carnivores, really do exist. They catch and digest insects and spiders by using their colourful, whimsical appearance to attract them. This is not an everyday occurrence, which is why Carnivorous plants are the Houseplants for the month of September.

Carnivores on your window sill
The most well-known Carnivorous plants are Dionaea muscipula, Sarracenia, Drosera and Nepenthes. These are exotic names for whimsical plants which lure insects with their scent and colour, to catch and digest them. They all catch their prey in their own particular way. The Dionaea, or the Venus fly trap, uses a leaf trap, which shuts really quickly. The Drosera sticks prey to its leaves, using tentacles. The leaves of the Sarracenia have a cup-like shape which captures the insects, also ingenious. The Nepenthes also has cups, which hang on the end of the leaves.

Rooted in the marsh
In the wild Carnivorous plants live in areas with nitrogen-poor soil, such as marshes. The plants can be found all over the world, but you won’t find them that often anymore, as they are quite rare nowadays.

Caring for Carnivorous plants
Most Carnivorous plants enjoy full sun and damp roots. During their growing period, you can place them in a large bowl of acidic soil with a couple of centimeters of water. Rainwater is preferable but they also like distilled or soft tap water. Try not to give them hard water, as their roots will begin to rot if too much salt is retained in the soil. They don’t need plant food as they catch their own food. It is a good idea to remove dead brown leaves and calyces as fungi love this.

Fun facts:
• Carnivorous plants don’t bite.
• Re-plant Carnivorous plants every one or two years in coarse peat, preferably in the spring.
• Fun but not a good idea: Letting the Carnivorous plant close on your finger. This costs the plant a lot of energy and it gets no food in return. A trap can open and shut about six times before it dies off.
• In The Little Shop of Horrors, a film from 1960 starring Jack Nicholson, his first ever film, a florist creates a new flower which can talk. The downside is that the flower only likes human flesh…
• Don’t feed Carnivorous plants pieces of meat, as the traps will start to rot. You can however feed the plants with live insects.
• If the traps of the Dionaea or Venus fly trap close slowly, give the plant more sunlight.
• In the winter there are fewer insects in the home, so you will see that the Carnivorous plant traps will wither and then return in the spring, ready for action.
• Charles Darwin wrote the first known description of Carnivorous plants, ‘Insectivorous Plants’, in 1875.

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Published on: 27 August 2015