There are at least 500 species of carnivorous plant on planet Earth, but nature’s most famous meat-muncher is the Venus flytrap. These jaws of death prey on vulnerable insects – and when they snap shut, there’s no escape…
The Venus flytrap’s lightning reflexes are not well understood, but they may be the result of electrical impulses. When the trigger hairs are touched, a signal causes water to move rapidly between the leaf’s cells, so that the cells on the outside of the leaf swell up, making the trap snap shut.
Formally known as Dionaea muscipula, this predatory plant grows in the wetlands of the eastern USA. A carnivorous plant is one that lures, traps, kills, and digests its victims, and the Venus flytrap does all of these in quick succession, thanks to its special touch-sensitive leaves. Trigger hairs on the leaves detect prey, but withstand false alarms such as drops of rain.
One of the largest carnivorous plants in the world is Nepenthes attenboroughii, native to the Philippines. Reaching 5 m (16 ft) tall, its leafy jaws can trap and digest mice and rats.