Biology » Soil and Plant Nutrition » Nutritional Adaptations of Plants

Insectivorous Plants

Insectivorous Plants

An insectivorous plant has specialized leaves to attract and digest insects. The Venus flytrap is popularly known for its insectivorous mode of nutrition, and has leaves that work as traps (see the figure below). The minerals it obtains from prey compensate for those lacking in the boggy (low pH) soil of its native North Carolina coastal plains. There are three sensitive hairs in the center of each half of each leaf.

The edges of each leaf are covered with long spines. Nectar secreted by the plant attracts flies to the leaf. When a fly touches the sensory hairs, the leaf immediately closes. Next, fluids and enzymes break down the prey and minerals are absorbed by the leaf. Since this plant is popular in the horticultural trade, it is threatened in its original habitat.

Photo shows a Venus flytrap. Pairs of modified leaves of this plant have the appearance of a mouth. White, hair-like appendages at the opening of the mouth have the appearance of teeth. The mouth can close on unwary insects, trapping them in the teeth.

A Venus flytrap has specialized leaves to trap insects. (credit: “Selena N. B. H.”/Flickr)


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