Scientific Name: Dionaea muscipula
Description: The Venus flytrap is a type of flowering plant that is best known for exhibiting carnivory. The “trap” is made of two hinged lobes at the end of each leaf. On the inner surface of the lobes are hair-like projections called trichomes that cause the lobes to snap shut when prey comes in contact with them. This type of movement is called thigmonasty – a nondirectional plant response to being touched. To prevent the plant from wasting energy if prey isn’t actually there, the trap will only shut when the trichomes are touched multiple times. The hinged traps are edged with small bristles that interlock when the trap shuts to ensure the prey can’t squirm its way out. There are other carnivorous plants in the wild, but the Venus flytrap is one of the very few that exhibits motion to actively trap its prey.
Typical Lifespan: The lifespan of the Venus flytrap isn’t known for certain, but it’s been estimated to live up to 20 years, possibly longer.
Habitat: It grows in moist, acidic soil which may be poor in nutrients. Venus flytraps need an open understory (the part of the forest below the canopy) to live. Part of what keeps the understory open is natural fires that sweep through and burn away parts of trees and shrubs. These fires can become dangerous to humans, so often we stop them before they have a chance to provide benefits to the forest. This results in less suitable habitat for the sun-loving Venus fly trap.
Range: The Venus flytrap is endemic to North and South Carolina, but it has been introduced to a few other states including Florida and New Jersey. It is popular as a potted plant in many parts of the world, but unfortunately, most of the Venus flytraps being sold were cultivated or collected from declining wild populations.
Life History and Reproduction: Venus flytraps are perennial plants, meaning that they bloom year after year. The flowers are white in color with green veins running from the base of the petal toward the edges. Pollinated flowers eventually give rise to seeds.
Fun Fact: Like all plants, the Venus flytrap gets its energy from the sun in a process called photosynthesis. It digests insects and arachnids to get nutrients that are not available in the surrounding environment.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable. This species is threatened by overcollection, habitat destruction, and fire suppression.
Smithsonian Magazine – “The Venus Flytrap’s Lethal Allure”