Insectivorous Plants

Insect eating plants are called insectivorous plants and they derive nutrition by consuming insects and likewise other organisms. There are over 750 individual species of carnivorous plants worldwide.

What are Insectivorous Plants?

Insectivorous plants are photosynthetic plants living in nutrition poor environments that lack in sufficient Nitrogen and then evolved to supplement themselves by trapping and eating animal flesh like that of insects. Therefore, they are called carnivorous plants.

Examples of Insectivorous Plants

An insect eating plants example include- Venus fly trap. Its book-like leaves emit sweet smell are divided into two lobes and small trigger hairs are present on the lobes. These are sensitive to touch; when these are bent with landing of an insect like a fly, ion channels at the base of the hair open and generate electrochemical signals which then change cells in the midrib and allow the lobes to shut. Therefore, when insects come near the lobes, they are trapped inside the plant between the two lobes. The right size insect is then captured, the finger like cilia forms a seal and digested inside. 

Other insectivorous plants examples include Venus flytrap, bladderwort, cobra lily, drosera or sundews and pitcher plant. Pitcher plants belong to large carnivorous plants and have modified leaves acting as pitfall traps that have sugary nectar and make insects fall via slippery surfaces into digestive juices. All of these leafy creatures eat everything from insects, to crustaceans to small rodents, to mammals. Sundews have leaves covered in delicate and wispy hairs with a tiny drop of liquid at the end. Insects fall trap to this tasty nectar juice but the fact is that dewdrops are sticky to trap the bug. 

Characteristics of Insectivorous Plants

Certain important characteristics of insectivorous plants are briefly described in the following points-

  • Nitrogen Deficiency

Insectivorous plants are found in Nitrogen lacking places and thus face the lack of nutrients. As a result, they have evolved as insect trapping or eating plants that enable them to absorb the necessary nutrients through their leaf structures. 

  • Attractive Nectars

Insectivorous plants appear shiny and are colourful; some of these having sweet or pleasant odour and flavoured nectars by which insects get easily attracted. Thus, when insects approach the plants, they are trapped and digested by the plants with the help of their juices or enzymes.

  • No Escape

There are no chances of escaping for the insects if they fit rightly for the leaves of the insectivorous plants. Some smaller insects sometimes can get out through traps. THe mouth of the plants have hair lined edges that help to shut the lobes of the leves trapping the insect inside. Most of the insects are not at all able to escape when they touch the hair and flap opens. Some plants have sticky mucus in them that makes an insect immovable.

  • Enzymes and Juices

Insectivorous plants secrete digestive juices consisting enzymes that help in dissolving the insect for absorption. Bacteria or mites present in the digestive tract of some plants also mimic the functions similar to the human digestive tract. 

  • Life on Wet and Damp Places

Insectivorous plants exist that are found in damp, humid, wet and acidic soil that is deficient in nutrients. Such places include swaps, coastal plains, bogs, wetlands, etc. Most of these plants are found in the regions of Australia, tropical places and North America.

Pictures of Insectivorous Plants

Below are the pictures of some of the popular insectivorous plants. Anyone can get an idea on how to draw pitcher plant or any other insectivorous plant.

Varieties of Traps in Insectivorous Plants

With changing insectivorous plants names, we can find different types of traps present in them. There are numerous types of insectivorous plants and each individual species has specific characteristics and may comprise one of the following traps to snap an insect.

  1. How does a pitcher plant trap insects? Pitfall traps are found in a pitcher plant and are composed of a hollow leaf life structure with a lid that is filled with liquid inside to digest the prey.

  1. How does a Venus Flytrap digest insects? The type of trap present in venus flytrap is a snap trap that shuts its leaves rapidly when the prey touches the trigger hair.

  1. Bladderwort traps: Bladder-like traps are found in Uticulara and are hollow underwater structures having a flexible door or valve that is normally kept closed. When a hapless animal swims near the plant, the trap opens and traps it inside. It takes place very quickly and thus is a remarkable aquatic carnivore plant.

  1. Flypaper traps- Utilizing mucilage or sticky glue, certain insectivorous plants trap their prey. Mucilage-secreting glands are studded in the plant leaves and can be releasing some fragrance.

  1. Lobster-pot trapping plants- Corkscrew plants consist of these kinds of traps where they possess downward-pointing hair pushing the prey deep inside the trap.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Give some examples of insectivorous plants.

Some of the insectivorous plants include Pitcher Plant, Venus Flytrap, Cobra Lily, Butterwort, Monkey Cup, Australian Sundew and Big Floating Bladderwort.

2. What are carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants are insect eating plants called insectivorous plants. Normally, animals are categorized into herbivores, carnivores and omnivores as they are organisms that feed on other organisms; plants are autotrophic in nature and synthesise their own food in the presence of sunlight via photosynthesis. However, carnivorous or insectivorous plants are devoid of nutrition and food synthesizing capabilities to get enough nitrogenous compounds, so they evolve to capture insects or rodents. Some of the examples include drosera, venus flytrap, cobra lily and monkey cup.

3. How can plants eat insects?

Insectivorous plants have certain insect trapping features on them such as pleasant smelling nectars, hair like structures and slippery surfaces that make it possible for insects to make a trap for insects and shut them inside their special lobed leaves or trappers. Then the presence of digestive enzymes or juices, it becomes easier for them to absorb the prey. This way, it is known that plants eat insects.