What is a Carnivorous Plant?

Pitcher plants are an example of a carnivorous plant.
Pitcher plants are an example of a carnivorous plant.

Carnivorous plants are uniquely adapted to environments that have poor nutrients. To supplement the low nutrients that they get from the environment, carnivorous plants trap and digest invertebrates, commonly insects or small vertebrates, These plants are often referred to as insectivorous since the majority of their prey is insects. The number of existing carnivorous plants is known to be about 583 species. The carnivorous plants have different trapping mechanisms including pitfall traps in pitcher plants, flypaper that uses sticky mucilage, snap traps using leaf movements, bladder traps sucking in prey, and lobster traps forces prey towards a digestive organ. Below is an analysis of some carnivorous plants.

three examples

Trumpet Pitchers - Sarracenia

Trumpet Pitchers, scientifically known as Sarracenia, are a genus of about 8-11 species of carnivorous plants that are indigenous to North America. They are predominantly located in Texas, the easter seaboard of the United States, the Great Lakes, and Southeastern Canada. The leaves of these plants are funnel shaped which allow them to trap insects. The pitcher plant is adapted for its feeding methods as it has colourful flowers that produce nectar and have an attractive scent. When an insect lands on the slippery footing on the pitcher’s rim, it quickly falls inside where it is trapped which leads to its death. When they die the insects are digested by enzyme proteases.

Tropical Pitcher Plant - Nepenthes Truncata

The tropical pitcher is genus of carnivorous plants that are scientifically known as Nepenthes truncata from the family Nepenthaceae. The plant grows in highly humid environments ranging from South China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Madagascar, Seychelles, and Australia. The majority of the species are found in Borneo, Philippines, and Sumatra. The Nepenthes genus has approximately 150 species and many hybrids. This plant has a pitcher that begins as a small bud and gradually grows into a tube-shaped trap which contains syrup that drowns the prey. Once the insect is trapped, it will be difficult for it to escape as the waxy coating on the upper inside traps it. The majority of their prey is insects although larger species catch vertebrates like lizards and rats.

Butterworts - Pinguicula

Butterworts is a genus of carnivorous plants that is scientifically referred to as Pinguicula and is native to Central America. The Pinguicula has sticky leaves that attract, trap, and digest insects that they use to supplement the deficient nutrients from the environment. There are roughly 80 known species of butterworts with 12 indigenous to Europe, 9 to North America, and some native to northern Asia. The butterworts are of two types depending on the climate that it inhabits which is either tropical or temperate. The Pinguicula is diverse in the northern hemisphere with a large concentration of its species in the humid and mountainous regions of Central and South America. This carnivorous plant grows in the alkaline soil that has poor nutrients.


Carnivorous plants are fascinating to look at even when they are not trapping insects which has led to many people collecting them in their natural habitat to plant in their homes. It is through this method as well as habitat loss that pose a serious conservation threat to the plants. Collections of these plants should be prohibited because they are so rare.

What is a Carnivorous Plant?

RankCommon NameScientific ClassificationType
1Trumpet PitchersSarracenia Pitfall trap
2Cobra plantDarlingtonia californicaPitfall trap
3Australian pitcher plantCephalotus follicularisPitfall trap
4Tropical pitcher plantNepenthes truncataPitfall trap
5Sun pitchersHeliamphoraPitfall trap
6Parrot PitcherplantSarracenia psittacinaPitfall trap
7Hooded pitcher plantSarracenia minorPitfall trap
8Fanged pitcher plantNepenthes bicalcarataPitfall trap
9Yellow pitcherplantSarracenia flavaPitfall trap
10ButterwortsPinguiculaFlypaper trap
11SundewsDroseraFlypaper trap
12Dewy pineDrosophyllumFlypaper trap
13Venus flytrapDionaea muscipulaSnap trap
14Waterwheel plantAldrovanda vesiculosaSnap trap
15BladderwortsUtriculariaBladder traps
16Corkscrew GenliseaLobster-pot traps

More in Environment