The capture and digestion process of a carnivorous plant

The capture and digestion process of a carnivorous plant

Carnivorous plants, have long been a huge subject of fascination and curiosity. Through evolution, these plants have developed an ability to capture and digest insects and sometimes even the smallest mammals.

This developed ability allows a carnivorous plant to survive in nutrient-poor environments. These are areas where many other plants would not be able to survive. In our blog, we take a closer look at how a carnivorous plant digests and catches their prey. 

How does a carnivorous plant hunt

Carnivorous plants come in many different forms and species, all with their own unique traps. To better map the kingdom of carnivorous plants, they have been grouped into different categories based on their traps. Let's take a closer look at that.

Sticky traps

Species such as, for example, the Sundew, also known as Drosera, use traps covered with a sticky substance. This substance is on the leaves of the plant and is used to attract and hold insects. The droplets located on the leaves, something characteristic of natural Sundew, lure the insects to the plant. When the insect touches the liquid, it becomes trapped. Something characteristic of Drosera is that their leaves close around the insect, thus completely encapsulating the prey.

Slap traps

Perhaps the most famous carnivorous plant is the Venus flytrap also known as Dionaea muscipula. This carnivorous plant, for example, uses this type of trap. The Venus flytrap is famous for its super fast clap traps. The Venus flytrap lures the insect between the two lobes with a sweet nectar. When the insect gets between the lobes, there is initially nothing wrong. But when the insect touches the trigger hairs inside the trap twice within 20 seconds, the trap slams shut decisively.

The suction trap

A carnivorous plant such as the water cup (Utricularia) lives in a watery environment. These plants use small bladders which can create a vacuum underwater. How are insects caught here? When the plant's trigger hairs are touched by an insect, the trap opens at lightning speed, creating a vacuum, as it were. The trap sucks in the water and the prey and closes again.

The cup trap

A carnivorous plant such as Nepenthes, for example, uses a pitcher trap. These cup traps are filled with a digestive fluid that dissolves insects, so to speak. But how do the insects get into these traps? The pitcher plant lures the insect to the edge of the trap, which is covered with a certain nectar which can disorient an insect. The rim of the pitcher trap has smooth grooves, so when an insect hits these grooves with its legs, the insect falls down into the pitcher. The hairs in the cup prevent the insect from flying back up.

The digestion process

Every carnivorous plant starts the digestive process after catching its prey. A carnivorous plant secretes digestive enzymes, such as proteases and chitinases, which help break down the soft parts of the insect. This process can easily take several days to weeks, depending on the size of the prey and the plant species. The plant then absorbs the released nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These substances, in turn, are incredibly important for the plant's growth.

The ecological role of the carnivorous plant

Carnivorous plants play a crucial role in their ecosystems. Indeed, they control insect populations and are in turn a food source for some insects and animals, which in turn have adapted to survive among these plants.

Unfortunately, we see that many species of carnivorous plants are under pressure due to habitat loss, pollution, and too many collectors. It is therefore important to protect habitats and carnivorous plants on their natural territories so that we can preserve them for an incredibly long time to come. Therefore, growing carnivorous plants from seeds is an excellent solution to support wild populations.


We at understand better than anyone that carnivorous plants provide a fascinating insight into the infinite evolution of the plant world. The ability of these plants to hunt in nutrient-poor environments and in addition digest these prey shows us an incredible adaptability of the plant world. 

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