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, and 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 thought 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 insect's body can often be seen on the outer surfaces of the closed lobes.
Once the prey is secured, the edges of the lobes will begin to form a hermetic seal and inside the trap digestive juices rich in hydrochloric acid seep from glands on the face of the lobes – dissolving the body of its captive and releasing its valuable nutrients.
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.
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