The venus flytrap, or Dionaea muscipula, is an incredibly unique carnivorous plant. It’s so iconic that it has inspired well known characters, such as Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, and most recently, ‘Snapper, The Perfect Tree’, from John Lewis’ hotly anticipated 2023 Christmas advert.
Snapper, having grown from a seed found at a market by a young boy, is cultivated to an enormous size in the hopes that it will become the family Christmas tree. After being cast aside for a traditional tree, the boy brings Snapper back into the mix to the tagline ‘Let your traditions grow’.
While venus flytraps may not make the best Christmas trees as a consequence of their miniature size, there’s so much more to these fantastic plants! Oh, and you might indeed call them mischevous, as they’re certainly smarter than you’d think – they can count, after all!
Here’s what you need to know about the venus fly trap.
Venus flytraps can live up to 30 years in the wild
Close to the life expectancy of the average horse, venus flytraps have some longevity in them! In fact, they might last longer in the wild than they would when being cared for by most humans…
They are native only to North and South Carolina
Venus flytraps actually have a very small native range, hailing from the subtropical wetlands of North and South Carolina, on the East Coast of the USA. These environments are called ‘pocosins’, and contain very nutrient-poor soils.
Love plant chat? You’ll want to subscribe to the Grow This, Not That newsletter on Substack. It’s full of new plants, hort news, ideas and inspiration, and more.
Become a free subscriber now, or get a paid subscription for the price of a coffee each month and receive exclusive articles that aren’t available anywhere else on the web.
They can count!
One of their most remarkable abilities lies in their ability to count… If the sensitive trigger hairs on their lobes are touched twice within a span of 20 seconds, their traps snap shut, ensnaring unsuspecting insects. This mechanism allows them to secure vital nutrients where soil is lacking.
They’ve got plenty of cousins
Venus flytraps aren’t the only carnivorous plants. They share a botanical kinship with sundews (Drosera) and waterwheel plants (Aldrovanda vesiculosa), forming a unique family of insectivorous flora.
They can photosynthesise, just like most other plants
While renowned for their carnivorous nature, venus flytraps are not solely dependent on insects for sustenance. They are fully capable of photosynthesis, a process usually associated with non-carnivorous plants. Their green leaves contain chlorophyll, enabling them to harness sunlight and convert it into energy.
How to grow Venus flytraps at home
While venus flytraps might seem entertaining, the novelty may wear off once you find that they need a little bit of extra care and attention in comparison to your regular houseplants!
If you’re committed to raising a venus flytrap, whether from seed or potted plant, here are some tips you shouldn’t skip!
1. If you live in a colder climate, plant your flytrap in a terrarium or similar structure that will help it retain heat and moisture.
2. Position your plant where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight per day.
3. Avoid using regular potting soil, as venus flytraps prefer nutrient-poor soils.
4. Use rainwater or distilled water on your flytrap, as tap water is either too alkaline or contains too many minerals.
5. You don’t need to feed your plants insects, but it can help, and it may turn into a bit of an unusual hobby…
Have you discovered something you didn’t know about venus flytraps? You can find out even more about this plant and other incredible plants in my book, Hortus Curious. Get a signed copy here, or buy the unsigned version from Amazon or Waterstones.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.