How Venus Fly Trap Plants Snap Shut

With its mouth-like leaves and ensnaring “teeth,” the carnivorous Venus Flytrap seems to be pulled out of a science fiction movie. Its almost predatory, bug-eating behavior draws interest from scientists and scholars alike.

The Venus Flytrap’s “jaws” consist of two adjoined lobes, which reside strands of trichomes. These hairs cause the traps to snap shut when in contact with a moving object, specifically flies. This instinctive action is commonly referred to as a thigmonasty, or a plant’s reaction to being touched. The flytrap, however, will only snap shut if two trichomes are touched within seconds of one another to avoid wasting energy on a false alarm. Once the flytrap snaps shut, it releases acidic enzymes to digest the bug. After consuming the fly, which takes 3 to 5 days- though it can go months without a meal- the plant opens its “mouth” once again, ready to lure more prey. 

Like the Venus Flytrap, Carnivorous plants evolve as a result of low soil sustenance. Over thousands of years, they’ve had to develop insect traps to meet their nutritional demands. Aside from catching flies, as its name suggests, it digests beetles, ants, spiders, and grasshoppers. However, the plant still uses photosynthesis to get energy- it simply ingests insects to get nutrients that aren’t available. 

Venus flytraps are native to the Carolinas, but have been introduced to other states, such as New Jersey and Florida. Although it is a popular potted plant, most of the Venus Flytraps which are marketed have been swiped from declining wildlife patches, an ongoing issue. 

    Growing in damp, acidic conditions, especially in areas lacking nutrients, the Venus Flytrap develops best in open patches of forest below the canopy. Being perennial plants, they bloom year after year, giving bloom to white flowers with muted green veins. The plan’s traps cannot live forever, however, and must die eventually. In place of the dead ones grow new “mouths” from its underground stems. Although it is not known for sure, it’s been estimated to live around 20 years or even longer (in the wild).

    A fascinating and intriguing carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap is notable for its insect-eating behavior. In addition to photosynthesis, the plant attains energy by catching and digesting bugs, providing them with energy that would otherwise be lost. Due to their nutrient-low soil, the Venus Flytrap has had to evolve over several millennia to adapt to this issue, producing insect traps and digestive habits.