There can be no question as to which is the most spectacular of all the carnivorous plants - the Venus flytrap. Related to the ‘Sundews’, it is the only species within this family that has evolved such an elaborate trapping mechanism.
It has narrow, green leaves that are formed into the shape of a rosette that extend from the base of the plant. Each leaf is prolonged into two reddish, kidney shaped lobes that are hinged on either side of a mid-rib.
The outer margin of each lobe is fringed by a line of spikes and just beneath them is a band of nectar glands. If you look closely you can also see a few isolated hairs on each lobe – these are the triggers that are waiting to set the trap!
An insect that is attracted to the nectar can move around the upper surface of the lobe with absolute impunity – in fact ‘knocking' into one of these trigger hairs will cause the plant to do precisely nothing! However, if the creature touches the same or another hair in the lobe within a 20 second timescale, the trap will shut with such a speed that few - if any - insects will have a chance of escape.
It takes no more than a third of a second for the trap to close on its prey. Exactly what produces this speed of movement is unknown, but it is though to be instigated by some rudimentary electric impulse.
.Although the line of spikes found on each lobe interlocks neatly, they do not close tightly on the initial movement, it is only when the trapped insect thrashes around inside its makeshift prison that more trigger hairs are activated - stimulating the lobes to close so tightly that the bulge of the insects body can often be seen on the outer surfaces of the closed lobes.
It takes about ten days for the trap to fully digest the vital nutrients from its captives body, after which it is reduced to little more than a dry husk.
The trap then reopens, ready for its next victim.
How do you water the venus fly trap?
Out of all the carnivorous plants that you can buy, the Venus Flytrap is perhaps one of the easiest to grow. The one thing to remember is that it does come from a specialist environment which is why it obtains its ‘nutrients’ in such a unique way. This does mean however, that Venus flytraps require water that has a very low mineral content otherwise these plants will almost certainly die.
WARNING, do not give you Venus flytraps water straight from the tap without being sure of its mineral content!
Their specialised physiology allows them to thrive in wet environments, and this needs to be mimicked when keeping Venus fly traps at home. The easiest way is to – presuming they are growing in a pot – is to keep the pot in a high sided saucer filled with water. They will need to be kept standing in water for most of the year, and this is where the science comes in because you can’t just use any old water
The Venus flytrap requires mineral-free water which is fine if your tap water is relatively pure (less than 50 parts per million in dissolved minerals), because then you can safely water your flytrap with it - the easiest way. If - like most of us - your tap water is unsuitable, use filtered rainwater, bottled distilled water or water that has passed through a reverse-osmosis unit. Do not use bottled mineral water.
As mentioned before, Venus fly traps come from a nutrient poor environment and this can leave the roots at risk from damage through ex-osmosis.
The definition of osmosis is:
'...osmosis is the diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane. More specifically, it is the movement of water across a semi-permeable membrane from an area of high water potential (low solute concentration) to an area of low water potential (high solute concentration)...'
While it is important to have your Venus flytraps standing in water during their active growing season, it is acceptable for the soil to be just moist or damp for short periods - although the soil should never be allowed to dry out completely. During their winter dormancy period it is better to keep the soil just damp and not let the plant sit in water as it would have done during the growing season.
It is also worth transplanting your Venus flytraps into fresh compost every few years as this will help to avoid an inevitable build up of nutrients and toxins within the root environment.
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Image care of http://pitcher-plant-guidesntips.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/plant-venus-fly-trap.html and http://www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/fruit-flies-help and http://www.honda-e.com/IPW_6_PhotoGallery/04_Dionaea/Ph4_1010.htm