GAR­DENS.

CAR­NIV­O­ROUS PLANTS ARE SUR­PRIS­INGLY EASY TO GROW AND TAKE CARE OF AND LIKELY TO PIQUE THE IN­TER­EST OF CU­RI­OUS YOUNG­STERS

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - CONTENTS - WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

There are about 391,000 known species of plants in the world. Of these, about 1000 species are car­niv­o­rous, hav­ing de­vel­oped the abil­ity to di­gest an­i­mals to en­able them to sur­vive in places where they can­not get the nu­tri­ents they need from the soil. They mostly eat in­sects, but some of the larger ones have been known to con­sume frogs and small birds and mam­mals.

I think ev­ery­body has at least heard of the Venus fly­trap (Dion­aea mus­cip­ula). Oc­cur­ring nat­u­rally in open for­est ar­eas of Carolina in the US, the Venus fly­trap pro­duces a short, fleshy leaf with a mod­i­fied tip that forms two sides of the trap. Each side of the trap con­tains tiny hairs which, when touched a cou­ple of times, cause the two sides to spring shut, thus trap­ping the in­sect in­side. Pitcher plants use sweet nec­tar in the mouth of the pitcher to lure in­sects into the trap. Once an in­sect en­ters, it has no chance of es­cape. The leaves of the pitcher plants are beau­ti­ful. They are avail­able in a range of colours and the pat­terns can be ex­quis­ite.

Sun­dews get their name from the abun­dant dew-like sticky nec­tar that is se­creted at the ends of the very fine ten­ta­cles on the branch­ing leaves. In­sects are at­tracted to this nec­tar and, as they en­joy the feast, they are pulled into the leaf for di­ges­tion.

Venus fly­traps, pitcher plants and sun­dews love a wet, sunny po­si­tion, so sit the pot in a tray of wa­ter out­side in the sun. They may be­come dor­mant dur­ing win­ter, but will reemerge in spring. Use a pot­ting mix that con­tains a lot of peat moss so it will hold mois­ture well. These car­niv­o­rous plants are re­ally easy to grow and they might make an ideal Christ­mas present for an in­quis­i­tive young per­son in your life.

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