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Carnivorous Plants. Nepenthes hamata. Beautiful, Strange and Truly Wondrous. Adapted for nutrient-poor soils, wet climates, bright light Like all green plants, photosynthesize (I.e. they’re producers)

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Carnivorous plants
Carnivorous Plants

Nepenthes hamata

Beautiful, Strange and Truly Wondrous

Carnivorous plants1

Adapted for nutrient-poor soils, wet climates, bright light

Like all green plants, photosynthesize (I.e. they’re producers)

Utilize excess sugars from photosynthesis (which only requires sunlight, water, and CO2) as bait

Attract and absorb macronutrients P-K-N (e.g. fertilizer) from prey

Hence, the adaptation of carnivory turns plentiful sunlight and water into essential nutrients that allow the plants to compete in impoverished soils

Carnivorous Plants

Classic examples of ecological resource trading

Carnivorous plants2

Soil with low mineral content(usuallyacidic)

Plenty of pure water (no salts, dissolved solids, metals, etc.)

Lots of sunlight

Little competition from alien species

Prey (mostly for flowering and fruiting)

As can be expected from this list, most are extremely endangered:

Development of the coastal swamps of the Southeast USA

Deforestation of SE Asia

Pollution of wetlands

Imported competition (Purple Loosestrife)

Carnivorous Plants

As a result, almost all species have similar needs

Genera of carnivorous plants
Genera of Carnivorous Plants

Over 550 Species; three basic trapping mechanisms

Sticky traps


  • Byblis

  • Drosera

  • Drosophyllum

  • Pinguicula

Pitfall traps


  • Darlingtonia

  • Cephalotus

  • Heliamphora

  • Nepenthes

  • Sarracenia

Active traps

(“steel trap” and “trap door”)

  • Aldrovanda

  • Dionaea

  • Utricularia


    (Minnow traps)

  • Genlisea

Venus flytrap dionaea muscipula
Venus FlytrapDionaea muscipula

Active traps

Venus flytrap dionaea muscipula1
Venus FlytrapDionaea muscipula

Trigger hairs

Flowers and seeds

Drosera the sundews
Drosera – The Sundews

Sticky traps

Carnivorous plants







D.paleacea paleacea

D.pulchella (pink)





D.ericks. x pulchella





Carnivorous plants

Drosera capensis in action!!!

Sticky traps


Leaf blade movement to aid digestion

Tuberous sundew drosera peltata
Tuberous SundewDrosera peltata

Other stickies byblis liniflora
Other stickies: Byblis liniflora

The Rainbow Plant

Sticky traps

Other stickies pinguicula
Other stickies: Pinguicula

Sticky traps

The Butterworts

Sarracenia north american pitcher plants
Sarracenia - North American Pitcher Plants

Pitfall traps


Sarracenia leucophylla and sarracenia psittacina
Sarracenia leucophylla and Sarracenia psittacina

Flytrap and sarracenia care

High light levels (full sun is usually best)

Never allow to dry out

Use pure water with few dissolved solids or salts (deionized/distilled/ reverse osmosis/rainwater)

No fertilizer!

Use peat moss based medium (mix w/ lime-free sand or perlite)

All are native to the USA (Flytraps from North Carolina)…

…and require a dormancy period

Flytrap and Sarracenia Care

Drosera care


Similar to Dionaea and Sarracenia needs

But may tolerate dilute fertilizer: ¼ strength Mir-acid

And lower light levels


Dormancy required

May reproduce asexually by gemmae


Need dormancy generally in the summer in USA

Can tolerate direct sun

Some seeds actually need to be exposed to fire to germinate.

Drosera Care

Carnivorous plants



Nepenthes - “Monkey Cup” Tropical Vine Pitcher Plant

Pitfall traps

Nepenthes monkey cup tropical vine pitcher plant

Pitcher size from 1” to more than 2 liters

Leaves up to 1 meter length

Some scramble, some climb many meters

Rats and baby monkeys have been found in pitchers

Over 100 species distributed in SE Asia

Found from sea level to 2000+ m elevation

Credit: Malesiana Tropicals

Nepenthes - “Monkey Cup” Tropical Vine Pitcher Plant

Carnivorous plants

Nepenthes Care

  • More tolerant of minerals in the water and drought

  • Separated into “Lowland” (<1000m) and “Highland” (>1000m) species

  • Lowlands expect 20+°C and high humidity at all times (~ terrarium)

  • Highland species expect (and often need) a cool night and open, less damp medium (sphagnum)

  • Some highlands even grow as epiphytes.

  • No dormancy

  • Propagated from cuttings, tissue culture, and sometimes seed

Carnivorous plants

Nepenthes ampullaria


Lowland species

Carnivorous plants

Nepenthes bicalcarata

Large lowland species: span 2m, vines 8+m Symbiotic with ant species

Nepenthes albomarginata blue spotted form
Nepenthes albomarginata (blue spotted form)

Lowland species

Specialized to eat termites

Highland species

Nepenthes campanulata
Nepenthes campanulata

Lowland species

Nepenthes gracilis

Nepenthes truncata
Nepenthes truncata

Lowland species

Nepenthes aristolochioides
Nepenthes aristolochioides

Highland species

Highland species

Nepenthes macrophylla
Nepenthes macrophylla

Highland species

Cephalotus follicularis albany pitcher plant
Cephalotus follicularisAlbany Pitcher Plant

Pitfall traps

Darlingtonia californica cobra lily
Darlingtonia californicaCobra Lily

Pitfall traps

South american pitcher plant heliamphora heterodoxa
South American Pitcher PlantHeliamphora heterodoxa

Pitfall traps

Carnivorous plant societies
Carnivorous Plant Societies

  • International Carnivorous Plant Society


  • New England Carnivorous Plant Society

    • Roger Williams Park, Providence, RI