Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

Trap Type:
Snap Trap

Phylum: Anthophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Superorder: Caryophyllales
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Droseraceae
Genus: Dionaea

Species: Muscipula
Species Specific Geographic Distribution:
Venus Flytraps are generally found in areas where the soil is in some way deficient. They are able to grow in habitats that are harsh for other plants because their consumption of animal matter through their trap mechanism makes up for the lack of nutrients in the soil. They grow very well in damp savannah environments and consequently are seen in swampy environments in the American South, where they are able to take advantage of insect populations and grow in less than ideal soils. This lack of nutrient-rich soil is integral to their growth and it is suggested that dmestic growers do not fertilize their indoor Venus Flytraps (Matt 2008).
They are mostly found in the Carolinas and in 2010 the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources suggested that there were fewer than 150,000 plants living in the wild (Tucker 2010). Because of their rarity, they are often the target of poachers who steal them from the few places they are found in nature in order to make a quick buck (Tucker 2010).

Venus Flytrap distribution (map courtesy of

Species Specific Anatomy:

The signature element of the Venus Flytrap is its maw, the apparatus with which it traps its prey. The traps close when the trigger hairs on its inner surface are touched repeatedly within a short window of time. The trap will reopen quickly if it has not nabbed an insect, but once an insect is caught, mucus is excreted to seal the trap shut while enzymes are used to digest the prey (Kew Botanical Gardens).

Venus Flytrap Maw (photo credit:

The Venus Flytrap flower has to grow on a long stalk at an extended distance from the leaves (traps) so that the insects who pollinate it do not also become the victims of the plant (Botanical Society of America).

Venus Flytrap Flower (photo credit: wikimedia commons)

The seeds of the Venus Flytrap develop directly from the flower. They are small, black, and round- roughly the size of a period (Tucker 2010).

Venus Flytrap seeds (photo credit:

Species Specific Carnivory:
While Venus Flytraps get a great deal of their energy from photosynthesis like many other plants, they rely on may nutrients gleaned during the process of "eating" small insects to survive. In order to survive in the challenging soils of swamps and bogs where it is often acidic, the Venus Flytrap evolved to get nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium from insects it trapped (Meeker-O'Connell 2013).
These insects are trapped on the plant's leaves which act as traps called maws. The broad lobed leaves pivot at a hinge formed by a central vein, thus allowing the snapping motion needed to catch the prey (Tucker 2010).

This video, from a BBC/Discovery documentary, depicts the average prey of the Venus Flytrap. The insect triggers the plant to snap shut and, as shown in the clip, it can only be spared if it is too large to be grasped or small enough to escape.

Species Specific Human Interaction:
Humans are responsible for much of the damage to the fragile Venus Flytrap population. About 70% of the historic Flytrap inhabited territory in the Carolinas has been destroyed by human activity, mostly the expansion of densely populated suburbs that encroach on the sensitive ecosystem of these unique plants (Tucker 2010). As noted above, the Flytraps are already dependent on a unique type of soil, so the human contact with these areas is especially damaging.
The plants, though sometimes portrayed in pop culture as man eating, cannot harm humans and only digest small insects.

Venus Flytrap in Popular Culture:

The 1960 musical was adapted to a film in 1986 directed by Frank Oz. In it, an introverted florist named Seymour finds that an exotic Fly Trap type plant, which has has named Audrey II in honor of a woman he desires, has a taste for human blood. The film culminates in a sadistic dentist named Orin being devoured by the bloodthirsty plant (

(photo credit:

Works Cited:

"Dionaea Muscipula - The Venus Flytrap." The Botanical Society of America, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <Dionaea muscipula - The Venus Flytrap>.

"Dionaea Muscipula (Venus Flytrap)." Kew Botanical Gardens, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.

Tucker, Abigail. "" Smithsonian Magazine. The Smithsonian, Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.

"Little Shop of Horrors." IMDb., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Matt. "Venus Fly Traps!" Fly Trap Care. Fly Trap Care, 24 May 2008. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.

Meeker-O'Connell, Ann. "How Venus Flytraps Work." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.