The quiet and calm atmosphere of this house belies the sinister nature of the plants we grow here. In the wild, carnivorous plants grow in nutrient-poor environments where insects provide an essential source of nutrients. Plants have evolved a myriad of different leafy traps to attract, trap and kill unsuspecting insect prey.
Some traps are passive, such as the sticky flypaper of the butterwort (Pinguicula spp.). Trumpet pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) have pitfall traps which contain pools of digestive enzymes into which insects tumble and drown. The Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) can move rapidly when triggered by a hapless insect walking across the surface of its jaws. Below ground, bladderworts (Utricularia spp.) have bladder-like traps which ‘suck in’ aquatic invertebrates, via a vacuum.
Many of these species are threatened in the wild because of over-collection for the horticultural trade.