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Monday, June 7, 2010


Nature is filled with numerous curiosities– take for example Dionaea

muscipula - the Venus Flytrap. This is a green plant that has almost “pet-like” qualities.

The Flytrap is one of 530 carnivorous species distributed worldwide. A horticultural oddity that was improperly classified around 1743; the flytrap was first discovered growing wild in the savanna plains of North and South Carolina.

Linnaeus was credited with giving the Venus Flytrap its common name, but it took Charles Darwin's fascination with this meat-eating plant to foster its popularity with the public, and eventually lead to its proper identification.

The Venus Flytrap is characterized by its shiny green stalk that ends with what looks like a "taco with teeth.” These little taco-shapes appear green when in the shade and red when exposed to full sun. The “tacos” are actually insect traps that emit a sweet nectar-like substance that lures insects to their capture, death and ultimate digestion as a food source for the plant.

Over the years, the Flytrap has become a sought after houseplant, not only as a helpful way to deal with unwanted bugs, but as a novelty because of their “pet-like” response to stimulation.

As a houseplant, the Venus Flytrap is quite easy to maintain when planted in live sphagnum moss that is kept in a consistently moist state through spring, summer and autumn. Watering is accomplished in much the same manner as that of an African violet - by placing the Flytrap’s pot in a shallow container filled with distilled water or collected rainwater.

The plant bears lovely white star-shaped flowers in May and June, and during winter, the plant goes into its "resting" stage – that’s when watering is cut back to a slightly damp basis and any dying-off black-colored traps are removed.

If you decide you do not want to keep your plant visible during this slightly ugly stage, just carefully remove the plant from its pot, place it in a plastic bag and pop it in the refrigerator. The Venus Flytrap can withstand winter time temperatures of between 34 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit.

About the only major pest problem for the plant are Aphids, and there is no need to supplement the Flytrap’s diet with commercial fertilizers as that, along with feeding it hamburger (a popular misconception) could cause it to die.

During the Flytrap’s “taco-producing stage,” a steady diet of everything from cockroaches to common houseflies will keep it happy and satiated. However, please realize, after four successive feedings per taco shaped trap, that particular trap will die off.

When feeding your Venus Flytrap use a pair of tweezers and gently place a live insect critter into the center of an open trap. Depending upon the amount of sun light available the trap should close within 1/30th of a second and re-open only after the insect has been fully digested, which is a thoughtful thing to do.

As the trap becomes older or as the ambient room temperature lowers, the trap's closure response speed diminishes.

Since there are about four to eight traps per plant, feeding is best-spaced one insect per week, per trap, which also allows you to enjoy these phenomena for the better part of a growing season.

What happens if you tease your Venus Flytrap just to see it close? The trap closes but does reopen within twenty-four hours. The closure is due to a so-called "double trigger mechanism" (located on the inside of the “taco shell”) where touching or stimulating one inner hair twice or two inner hairs once will trigger the trap's closure.

The Venus Flytrap is the perfect plant "pet" for those with curiosity as well as the "stomach" for the unusual.

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