The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) has been the subject of fascination for centuries, and for good reason. The carnivorous plant is indeed a trap; a scientific marvel in every right. An unsuspecting insect or spider perched on the flytrap’s bright pink leaves will rarely escape. The key to this intricate trap? Tiny hairs protruding from the leaves.
The hairs act as a trigger mechanism for those unfortunate enough to make contact. If potential prey touch a hair, a timer is set. The Venus flytrap gives the visitor twenty seconds to flee and live to see another day. However, if one of the hairs is touched a second time within the twenty seconds then the “jaws” of the trap spring closed, trapping prey inside.
Jagged “teeth” line the edge of the leaves, snapping shut like a bear trap and offering little chance of escape. The teeth don’t completely close, however, allowing smaller prey a second lease on life. It’s a calculated move by the Venus flytrap; anything small enough to pass through its teeth wouldn’t be worth digesting. If this is the case, the trap will open up again within twelve hours, its sweet nectar ready for the next unfortunate guest.
The Venus flytrap has mastered the art of conserving energy, it’s even smart enough to distinguish between a potential meal and non-beneficial stimuli such as raindrops. It can also gauge the size of its prey by using its tiny hairs. Once the trap is closed these sensitive hairs feel for any movement or signs of a struggle. If the hairs are touched five times in quick succession, the flytrap’s grip tightens and the digestion process begins.
It’s an ingenious trap, and one of nature’s most interesting creations. Most think of the Venus flytrap as this exotic plant, exclusive to rainforests and foreign lands, but the flytrap is actually native to our region. The plant was first discovered and documented by North Carolina’s governor in the late 18th century; a plant he named the flytrap. Growing a Venus flytrap has its challenges, but nonetheless it can be achieved. If you want to grow some flytraps of your own try reading this guide here.