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What is a Venus Flytrap?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

A Venus Flytrap is a type of plant, which is carnivorous and feeds primarily on insects and spiders. Its Latin name is Dionaea muscipula, and it is popular as an exotic plant for home cultivation. In mainstream culture it has also achieved a high level of popularity, with the Venus Flytrap appearing in various books, television shows, and movies over the years.

Most plants get their nutrients from the soil in which they grow. A small portion of plants, however, get their nutrients from animals, which they catch and digest. These plants are referred to as a whole as carnivorous plants, although they cover five different families and more than a dozen genera. Most carnivorous plants are relatively passive, making use of mechanisms such as sticky surfaces or pitchers full of liquid to catch their play. Two types of carnivorous plants, however, make use of a much more active snap trap to catch their prey: the Venus Flytrap and the waterwheel plant.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The Venus Flytrap is native only to North Carolina and South Carolina in the United States, in bog-land where there are very few nutrients to be found in the soil. The plants are also found naturally in parts of northern Florida, and are widely cultivated by amateur and professional gardeners.

The exact mechanism by which Venus Flytraps capture their prey still isn’t entirely understood, but the general mechanism is. Each leaf on a Venus Flytrap has two distinct lobes, which are what snap shut to capture prey. These lobes have sensitive hairs on them, which act as trigger mechanisms to cause the Venus Flytrap to close. When the hairs are touched by an insect, the lobes swell slightly, flipping from a convex to a concave shape and snapping shut. Once shut, the insect continues to flail about, further exciting the hairs and causing the lobes to continue swelling until they seal completely.

Once sealed, the Venus Flytrap begins to digest the insect within the sealed lobes. This process takes about a week and a half, and the nutrients of the insect are absorbed by the lobe into the plant. Once the insect has been completely digested, the lobes slowly reopen, and the trap is effectively reset, to await another insect to land on it.

Venus Flytraps are fairly tricky to grow at home, but there is a large community of enthusiasts who grow them and offer assistance to those who wish to grow them. The number one reason people have difficulty growing Venus Flytraps is that they receive plants which are already in a poor state of health when they buy them, so then must fight an uphill battle to get them healthy again. The Venus Flytrap can be kept in a pot either indoors or outside, although they cannot handle intense cold well at all. A large number of cultivars of the Venus Flytrap exist. Some of the most popular include the Big Mouth, the Jaws, the Royal Red, and the Red Dragon.

In popular culture the Venus Flytrap has captivated people’s imaginations, as an almost animal-like plant. The most famous Venus Flytrap in the media is undoubtedly the fictional Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, but Venus Flytraps appear as villains and heroes in everything from cartoons to television shows to video games, such as Inspector Gadget, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, The Simpsons, and The Addams Family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Venus Flytrap and how does it catch its prey?

The Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant known for its unique method of catching prey. It has jaw-like leaves that snap shut when sensitive hairs are triggered by the movement of an insect. This rapid closure, taking less than a second, traps the prey, which the plant then digests using enzymes.

Where can Venus Flytraps be found in the wild?

Venus Flytraps are native to subtropical wetlands on the East Coast of the United States, particularly in North and South Carolina. They thrive in nutrient-poor, acidic soils where they have adapted to supplement their diet with insects due to the lack of nitrogen in the soil.

What do Venus Flytraps eat and how often do they need to feed?

Venus Flytraps consume insects and arachnids, which provide essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. In their natural habitat, they might only need to capture prey every few weeks. The frequency of feeding depends on the availability of insects and the plant's growth stage and health.

How long does it take for a Venus Flytrap to digest its prey?

Once a Venus Flytrap has closed its trap on prey, the digestion process can take about 5 to 12 days. During this time, the plant secretes digestive enzymes to break down the soft parts of the insect, absorbing the nutrients before reopening and discarding the exoskeleton.

Can Venus Flytraps survive without eating insects?

While Venus Flytraps benefit from the nutrients obtained from insects, they can survive without them for extended periods, relying on photosynthesis like other plants. However, without insect prey, they may not grow as vigorously or produce as many traps.

Are Venus Flytraps endangered, and what are the threats to their survival?

Venus Flytraps are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss, poaching, and the illegal collection. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), their wild populations are declining, and conservation efforts are crucial to protect these unique plants from further threats.

Discussion Comments


As a nursery owner, I can tell you that one of the most popular plants we have for young people is the Venus fly trap. This amazing plant has an incredible reputation for being interesting as well as a very easy plants take care of. While most people think that these plants would require maintenance, they actually take care of themselves quite well. As long as you follow the basic instructions on how to care for a Venus fly trap and you will have a long living and excellent companion of the little carnivorous plant.

if you do visit the nursery to purchase a Venus fly trap for young children, I recommend that you take a look at the other exotic plants that can be very interesting for students. There are also other types of plants that eat insects. While some of these plants do not have a closing action with teeth like a Venus fly trap does, there are very interesting concepts and how they trap bugs. This just goes to show you that plants have evolved a variety of ways to be able to consume nutrients from insects as well as the ground.


As a teacher I like to keep the flytrap plant inside of my classroom. Near the display of the plant I keep a Venus flytrap information so that students can learn about this intriguing organism. It is amazing to me that the Venus fly trap adaptations that have evolved over the natural history of the world has allowed for a insect eating plants to come about.

This case goes to show you the amazing ability of the world to adapt to different kinds of climates and situations. Biology is incredible and without it we wouldn't have these amazing plants such as the Venus flytrap.

if you are looking for a simple class pet don't want to get caught up with having a rodent, snake or other very time-consuming animal to keep, I would recommend a Venus flytrap. Students will be intrigued by it and will think it is a lot more interesting than the typical inside plant. The first time the plant you to fly, your classroom will be captivated.


I was always disappointed with my Venus fly trap when I was younger. While people made these claims seem very exciting it actually takes a long time these plants to digest any kind of insect. The other important thing to remember when using owning a Venus fly trap is the fact that they are very sensitive to touch.

If you jointly use your finger near one of the plants mouths it is very likely that it will close up automatically. While this sensitivity is what makes it possible for the plant to entrap insects, it means also that you will have to be careful around your plant and how you handle it. It takes a while for the plant to open back up after it is closed therefore you must be wary of not allowing the mouth close too often. Either way I was mostly unimpressed by my plant but I could see how some people truly enjoy the companionship.


When I was young boy our mother actually went out and bought my brother and I a Venus fly trap a. This intriguing plans kept us entertained for hours on end. Now that I am a parent I am considering purchasing a Venus fly trap for my children.

Using the plant is an instructional aid for teaching children about how to care for something is an excellent idea. The responsibility that it takes to take care of the plant is fairly simple, yet it still teaches basic things like daily responsibility. These kind of lessons are invaluable to children and must be taught them.

The great part about using the Venus flytrap as a teaching aid is that it absolutely captivates the attention of the children that you are trying to teach.

For more Venus flytrap info I would recommend doing a basic Internet search you can find out what areas in town are retailers of this very lovable plant.


You can buy the Venus Flytrap plant at places like Home Depot. I did not buy the Venus Flytrap seeds or even try to buy a Venus Flytrap terrarium.

Instead,I bought just on little plant. I feed it bits of raw ground beef. These plants are really great to have around because they also eat flying insects which are just a pain in the neck.

My daughter actually got a kick out of seeing me feed it meat. She could not believe it when I told her that these plants actually eat meat.

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