Venus flytraps get their name due to their unique trap-like structures, which they use to catch their prey. The plant has one of the fastest movements seen among plants. So, it is always an exciting sight to see the Venus flytrap close its trap in one-tenth of a second.
The Venus flytrap originates from the swamp-like terrain where the nutrient content of the soil is very poor. So, the plant evolved a unique way to use traps to catch their prey and successfully survive in such an inhospitable environment.
Working of the trap
Unlike animals, the Venus flytrap doesn’t have eyes. So, how does it catch its prey? It uses sensory trichomes, which are essentially physical, hair-like structures that dot its interior. So, if it detects any movement, the sensory trichomes get activated, and the trap snaps shut at lightning speed, trapping its prey.
However, the trap only shuts if it senses two touches within five seconds. It happens so that there are no false alarms and the plant doesn’t waste its energy.
The Venus flytrap secretes sweet-smelling nectar to lure its prey into the trap. As soon as the prey lands inside the trap, the sensory trichomes detect movement and the trap snaps shut.
It generally closes up to 90% but if the animal starts to struggle, the trap shuts completely to prevent the prey from escaping. Similarly, if the prey is not an insect but a rock or twig, the plant will automatically spit it out within twelve hours.
How do Venus fly traps digest its prey?
Trapping the prey is only the first step. The next step is digesting the prey. After the prey has been trapped, the plant will secrete digestive enzymes from specialized glands. It will start dissolving the exoskeleton.
After breaking through the external layer, the Venus flytrap starts processing the insect’s nitrogen-rich blood and eventually digests the prey using special digestive enzymes.
However, most insects are saltier than the plant can handle, so it consists of special sodium transporters that get rid of excess salt by depositing it into separate organs.
The Venus flytrap generally has a diet that ranges from flies and bugs to frogs and spiders. It can essentially digest any insect that fits into the trap and successfully assimilate it. Generally, the ideal size of the plant is 1/3rd the size of its trap.
However, sometimes the prey tends to be larger than it can handle. This causes the prey to stick out. While it can still kill and digest the insect inside the trap the part of the insect being left outside starts to decay. This causes pests and mold and can cause damage to the trap. In cases like this, the trap starts to rot, turn black, and fall off. Generally, another new trap replaces the old one.
Thus, the working of the Venus flytrap is an interesting phenomenon and has been a subject of several scientific research projects. Its exotic appearance and movement have also made it an ideal houseplant for people looking to have a more interactive plant in their collection.