Basically, human beings and animals are known essentially to be carnivores, that is, they feed on flesh or meat.
However, nature has its way of springing surprises. There is a plant species which, like animals devour flesh. It is called Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).
The Venus flytrap is a small plant whose structure can be described as a rosette of four to seven leaves, which arise from a short subterranean stem that is actually a bulb-like object.
Each of its stem reaches a maximum size of about three to ten centimeters, depending on the time of year; longer leaves with robust traps are usually formed after flowering.
Flytraps that have more than seven leaves are colonies formed by rosettes that have divided beneath the ground.
The leaf blade is divided into two regions: a flat, heart-shaped photosynthesis-capable petiole, and a pair of terminal lobes hinged at the midrib, forming the trap which is the true leaf.
The upper surface of these lobes contains red anthocyanin pigments and its edges secrete mucilage. The lobes exhibit rapid plant movements, snapping shut when stimulated by prey.
The edges of the lobes are fringed by stiff hair-like protrusions or cilia, which mesh together and prevent large prey from escaping.
Venus flytrap catches its prey—chiefly insects and arachnids—with a trapping structure formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant’s leaves, which is triggered by tiny hairs (called “trigger hairs” or “sensitive hairs”) on their inner surfaces.
The trapping mechanism is tripped when prey contacts one of the three hair-like trichomes that are found on the upper surface of each of the lobes.
The mechanism is so highly specialized that it can distinguish between living prey and non-prey stimuli, such as falling raindrops; two trigger hairs must be touched in succession within 20 seconds of each other or one hair touched twice in rapid succession, whereupon the lobes of the trap will snap shut, typically in about one-tenth of a second.
These protrusions and the trigger hairs (also known as sensitive hairs) are likely homologous with the tentacles found in this plant’s close relatives, the sundews. Scientists have concluded that the snap trap evolved from a fly-paper trap similar to that of Drosera.
The holes in the meshwork allow small prey to escape, presumably because the benefit that would be obtained from them would be less than the cost of digesting them.
If the prey is too small and escapes, the trap will usually reopen within 12 hours. If the prey moves around in the trap, it tightens and digestion begins more quickly.
Speed of closing can vary depending on the amount of humidity, light, size of prey, and general growing conditions.
The speed with which traps close can be used as an indicator of a plant’s general health, Venus flytraps are not as humidity-dependent as are some other carnivorous plants, such as Nepenthes, Cephalotus, most Heliamphora, and some Drosera.
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is native to subtropical wetlands on the East Coast of the United States in North Carolina and South Carolina.