Are There Plants That Eat Animals?

Yes! Plants which trap and eat insects and other small animals are called carnivorous, or meat-eating, plants. These carnivorous plants are usually found in areas where the soil does not have a good supply of minerals to nourish the plants. So the plants get these needed minerals from living victims, usually by digesting the soft parts of these victims’ bodies.

Some of the best known carnivorous plants are the pitcher plant, the sundew, and the Venus Flytrap.

The pitcher plant, found in the southeastern United States, has a red, ball-shaped flower, with tube-shaped leaves called pitchers.

A sweet substance around the rim of each leaf attracts the insect, which crawls inside to drink the sweet, sticky liquid that fills the pitcher. When the insect tries to get out, it finds that downward-pointing hairs on the inside of the pitcher have formed a prison. These hairs are as strong as hooks and can even trap small birds inside the pitcher.

The sundew traps insects in its leaves too, but in a different way. The sundew’s leaves are covered with hairs that have a sticky liquid at their tips. The odor of the liquid attracts the insect.

When the insect lands, the hairs close over it, then the entire leaf closes over it too. The leaves then pour digestive juices on the insect and suffocate it. The insect’s body is then digested by the plant.

The Venus-flytrap, which happens to be a popular household plant, is the quickest acting of the three plants because of the spring trap at the tip of its leaves.

When an insect lands on the Venus Flytrap, the plant’s leaves snap shut in about half a second. Sharp bristles on the edges of the leaf lock into each other, then the leaf curls inward and squeezes its captive to death. Once the insect is digested, the leaves open up again.

If there are no insects around, the Venus Flytrap will even snack on tiny bits of meat or cheese!