Pardon me for being rude, it was not me it was my food

This week, we look more into thechemistry behind the Venus Fly Trap, and explore how it uses its methods to obtain key nutrients from insects that it catches.
Previously, I wrote that due to the acidity of its soil, the Venus Fly Trap is forced to become carnivorous in order to adapt to its environment. Using its mouths to trap wandering prey as they unknowingly stroll into their impending doom.

This head is beginning to open after a week of digesting a spider.

Slowly, the insect is digested for all its useful nutrients so that to plant may continue to thrive and grow. Although plants don’t have tendons that can grab, chew and swallow their food. This raises a question, how does it get food to its stomach?
Well, the heads are infact both mouth and stomach in one. In truth, we aren’t totally sure how the process all works but the theory goes that cells may be compressed inside the mouth, this tension may actually hold the mouth open and its the insects weight and movement that break this tension and cause it to snap shut. Another hypothesis, mechanical movement in the trigger hairs changes water pressure within the cells, where the cells are expanded by water pressure and the trap closes as the cell tissue relaxes.

So how does the plant break its food down?

Just like our stomachs, the Venus Fly Trap uses acidic digestive fluids that dissolve soft tissues and cell membranes of the insect. Using enzymes it will digest DNA, amino acids and other cellular molecules into smell edible pieces that can be used for energy, growth and development. All that remains afterwards is an eerie exoskeleton of the insect!

Closer look at the recently digested meal.

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The Next Generation

We’ve come to an important part of my Venus Fly Trap’s life. As you see below there are many new leaves sprouting from within Hector’s roots, meaning that new heads will grow and they will take over the existing grown heads, which will now begin to decay.

New heads compete for the best spot for sunlight

This week I noticed 2 of the heads completely ignore food that wandered into its mouth, indicating that those heads are now decaying. Eventually they will wilt and brown but I shall trim them accordingly to ensure I keep the green leaves around so that they can pull in more sunlight.

You can see decay around the teeth here

The weather has been fantastic of late, it’s either blistering sunshine or intense rain and that helps Hector thrive. Although he is an indoor plant for me, I’ll often place him outside for a few hours if it rains.

It is important to not let the soil become too damp otherwise the heads will grow thin and weak.

Picture taken 8/5/16

Picture taken 12/5/16

As you can see between the images above, the plant is growing steadily and the new heads will take over in the next few weeks.

New heads are still beginning to sprout now

If you look closely you can see several heads under the leaf

Things are beginning to look a little overcrowded so I many need to consider a bigger pot. Any advice you might be able to give on repotting would be vital so please do leave a comment if you can.

From next week, I’m going to look at a more in depth analysis on how and why the Venus Fly Trap grows the way it does. From the intricate biology of the heads, to the benefits of being a carnivorous plant, we shall find out and get to know Hector in all his glory!

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Water Care – Venus Fly Trap

I thought I’d dive straight in with an update of my Venus Fly Trap, or Hector as you may know him if you have seen the previous post on this blog.

This week, I plan on covering the topic of water care. I’ll go into grooming, pest control and other topics as we go further into Hector’s growth and development.

He’s been living with me for roughly a week and is living a steady life. Kept on the west side of the house so he can fully benefit from the evening sunset and photosynthesize late into the day. I will occasionally keep him in my bedroom, facing east, so he can also benefit from the morning sun. As I live on the first floor and there is little around me blocking light, Hector is able to fully benefit from both morning and evening sun.

I have not seen any dramatic changes in growth and the biggest challenge is ensuring your plants are receiving the correct water. Tap water is not the best choice for a Venus Fly Trap as they are quite demanding, despite Britain having one of the highest qualities of water in the world.

Unfortunately, this means that the water is often high in Chlorine (Cl) and Fluorine (F) components which are not beneficial to your plants health. However, this doesn’t mean you have to spend high amounts of money on distilled or bottled water, there are a few tricks to the trade if you don’t wish to part with your hard-earned money.

I did some research and the obvious choice of water for your plant is rain water. North and South Carolina have somewhat similar conditions to Britain but if you have means to pot your Venus outside then do so. Although if there is the occasional dry spell, or your like me and not always around to collect rain water – fear not, tap water can actually turn into drinkable water for your plants.

I’d recommend filling up whatever sized bottle (or means of holding water) and leaving this on the side for 24-48 hours, under room temperature. This will allow time for any chemicals to evaporate and disperse and will prevent bacteria growth. Your Venus should never have dry soil but try not to water them too much, as you see in mine there is a lot of moss so this should soak up and encourage the Venus to thrive but being overzealous here could cause your Venus to grow thin leaves making them more vulnerable to insect or fungal attack.

I noticed the above damage was only slight when I first got Hector but as you can see this has gotten a little worse. This could be due to my over-eagerness of watering the plant admittedly but remember I’m a novice so go lightly on me! If you have recommendations on how often or how much to feed your Venus please do leave a comment, you could save dear Hector!

When watering your Venus it is always best to remember what conditions to keep him in. If you can allow lots of warm, direct sunlight you may only need to water your plant every 2-4 days (depending on how hot the conditions are and how quickly the soil dries). However, in colder more shaded conditions water your Venus every 8-14 days particularly during the freezing winter conditions.

If you’re really unsure of how often to water your Venus, just keep a watchful eye on the soil and when this starts to become dry at the top you can water your Venus and find a suitable pattern.

“So do I water from the top or the bottom?”

This is a question I asked myself in the beginning and thought it best wise to water from the top.

Water from the top will help disperse the feed better and can help wash the soil through of anything foreign that could be potentially harmful if left to sit inside the soil. However, water from the bottom will work and is easier but always remember to occasionally feed from the top too.

As for the head of the leaf that is deteriorating, I will cut this with scissors (see below) gently and allow the green leaf to continue to photosynthesize as there are many health benefits still from this.


If you’re growing a Venus yourself leave a comment, let me know how your growth is going it would be great to see other peoples techniques and share together!

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