Archive for October, 2011

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) trilogy. Episode two. Facts.

Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant. What is a carnivorous plant?  Well some will say it’s a plant that eats flash. That sometimes really happens (I don’t say it’s a good thing for the plants), but carnivorous plants eat insects generally. Carnivorous plants have to capture their pray somehow so they use various kinds of traps. Venus Flytraps have active traps that capture prey with sudden moves. Pitcher plants, for example, capture their pray passively. Comparing this plants with common plants we can see that they work similar. Any plant absorb nutrient through roots (leafs and strains, in the case of aquatic plants) and use them for growth. Normal plants absorb water and nutritive substances from soil which they use for photosynthesis. Carnivorous plants also use water and nutrients from the soil but they also digest their pray and use the resulted substances. The digestion can be made with the help of external bacteria or with the plants’ own enzymes.

Natural habitat

Venus Flytraps come from east of North America from a small region in North and South Carolina. They are  concentrated there in just 100 miles radius area, around the town of Wilmington and live in boggy areas with a lot of sun. On the map below you can see marked with a green circle the natural habitat of flytraps. Also you will find Venus Flytraps allover the World in the houses of hobbyists :).

Dionaea muscipula habitat

Wilmington

Landscape of the natural habitat of Venus Flytraps

Morphology

A Venus Flytrap has a bush – like appearance. It’s leafs grow straight from the earth where there is a soft white pseudo – petiole. Directly from this white part grow the plants’ roots.  The leafs are elongated with a very special termination, the mouth of the plant.

The mouth is formed of two leafs grown to form a degree of under 90 on the side where the mouth closes. The mouth is used, of course, for eating. In it there are usually 6 triggers, 3 on each leaf that form the mouth.

(Image embedded from justvenusflytraps.com)

How does it eat?

The mouth secrete a special juice that insects like. This juice is found on the lips of the mouth and all over on the interior sides. But also on the interior sides there are the six triggers. When the insect enters to drink some juice it touches also the triggers. If it touches only one trigger then the insect is lucky, it can go out without being caught. But if the insect touches the second hair within 20 seconds from the first touch, then it’s goodbye for it, the mouth suddenly closes and the insect is trapped. There are six triggers in a small mouth, think about the chances of escape… Why touch two triggers within 20 seconds? Well, because the Flytrap isn’t stupid. Its a caution for natural phenomena like wind or water drops, and this is because the mouth has a limited number of catches; some say that a mouth can close only six times.

The mouth is convex on the inside when is open. Due to this the hairs on the sides of the lips are almost parallel. When an insect touched the second trigger the mouth becomes concave on the inside, and because of this the hairs on the lips mingle like jail bars and trap the insect. Afterwards, with the insect trapped, the mouth slowly closes until it seals the insect inside (you can be sure of this when you see the hairs on the lips getting parallel). After the insect is sealed the flytrap fills with digestion substances like a stomach. You can absolutely see this because it balloons itself and at the more transparent mouths you can see the juice inside. This digestion substances have the purpose to dissolve the parts of the insect that the flytrap needs, after this parts being dissolved the plant drinks them getting bigger 🙂 . After several days the mouth opens ready for another insect.

A "Justina Davis" flytrap, convex inside. (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

 

All kinds of flytraps

Venus Flytrap is a plant single in its genus, so there is only one kind of Doinaea muscipula in the world. But horticulturists, starting from this only kind of flytrap, developed some other varieties with special characters. There are a lot of names out there but only some of them are officially registered. I will present here only registered varieties as listed by The International Carnivorous Plant Society on sarracenia.com with the description of Barry Rice.

1. Dionaea ‘Alien’
The traps are strongly arched, so that from the side thay are shaped like the head of the monster from the Alien movies.

Dionaea 'Alien' (image embedded from flytrapcare.com)

2. Dionaea ‘B52’
A flytrap with very large traps registered by Barry Rice.

Dionaea 'B52' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

3. Dionaea ‘Bohemian Garnet’
A half-sized, all-red cultivar with dentate teeth, which propagates quickly.

Dionaea 'Bohemian Garnet' (image embedded from canalblog.com)

4. Dionaea ‘Clayton’s Red Sunset’
An all-red flytrap with petioles that are always long and skinny, that loses all its leaves during the winter, and that is always entirely red.

Dionaea 'Clayton's Red Sunset' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

5. Dionaea ‘Coquillage’
Thick-edged traps with widely spaced, small marginal spines. The cultivar name means “shell,” and the traps do have a somewhat bivalvian appearance.

Dionaea 'Coquillage' (image embedded from flickr.com)

6. Dionaea ‘Cupped Trap’
The traps are oddly cupped at the tip, and the trap spines are coiled longer in the development process.

Dionaea'Cupped Trap' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

7. Dionaea ‘Dentate Traps’
The trap spines are modified into short, toothlike triangles. This is known by various incorrect names like dente, dentate, etc.

Dionaea 'Dentate Traps' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

8. Dionaea ‘Fused Tooth’
Although this plant looks normal in the spring, later in the season it produces grotequely malformed leaves where the spines are irregularly merged. Very weird.

Dionaea 'Fused Tooth' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

9. Dionaea ‘Green Dragon’
Often sold as Dionaea ‘Red Dragon’, the trap margins are green even under intense light. Perhaps a tissue culture mutation of Dionaea ‘Red Dragon.’

Dionaea 'Green Dragon' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

10. Dionaea ‘Holland Red’
Another red form, with characters not obviously different, especially from Dionaea ‘Green Dragon’.

Dionaea 'Holland Red' (image embedded from servimg.com)

11. Dionaea ‘Jaws’
The trap spines are short and pointy, the traps are big. It looks quite sharklike when the lobes have just closed!

Dionaea 'Jaws' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

12. Dionaea ‘Justina Davis’
A flytrap with completely green traps, not to be confused with traps that are just pale pink or grown in low light.

Dionaea 'Justina Davis' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

13. Dionaea ‘Korean Melody Shark’
A plant with thin leaf blades, and a trap with a ragged edge that lackes well-developed spines. Rather like a more-energetic version of ‘Wacky Traps.’

Dionaea 'Korean Melody Shark' (image embedded from photobucket.com)

14. Dionaea ‘Korrigans’
The trap is fused, abnormally, to the leaf blade (i.e., the little petiole is missing).

Dionaea 'Korrigans' (image embedded from flickr.com)

15. Dionaea ‘Louchapates’ (aka Dionaea ‘Noodle Ladle’)
The spines are often multiply divided, and spines are also place on the tip of the trap lobes, where other clones do not have them.

Dionaea 'Louchapates' (image embedded from imageshack.us)

16. Dionaea ‘Microdents’
The spines very tiny, but otherwise normally spaced.

Dionaea 'Microdents' (image embedded from flickr.com)

17. Dionaea ‘Mirror’
Secondary, traplike lobes occur on the backs of many of the traps.

Dionaea 'Mirror' (image embedded from hostingpics.net)

18. Dionaea ‘Petite Dragon’
This cultivar has the coloration of Dionaea ‘Red Dragon’ but never gets very large. Also, it has bifurcated flower stalks.

Dionaea 'Petite Dragon' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

19. Dionaea ‘Red Burgundy’
Another red clone, but supposedly more vigorous in cultivation.

Dionaea 'Red Burgundy' (image embedded from drosphyllum.com)

20. Dionaea ‘Red Dragon’ (aka Dionaea ‘Akai Ryu’)
A dark red plant.

Dionaea 'Red Dragon' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

21. Dionaea ‘Red Piranha’
This cultivar has the coloration of Dionaea ‘Red Dragon’ and the marginal spines of Dionaea ‘Dentate Traps’.

Dionaea 'Red Piranha' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

22. Dionaea ‘Royal Red’
Another red clone.

Dionaea 'Royal Red' (image embedded from carnivoras.org)

23. Dionaea ‘Sawtooth’
The trap spines are modified into short, sawtoothed edges.

Dionaea 'Sawtooth' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

24. Dionaea ‘Scarlet Bristle’
Another red clone. It looks like a ‘Red Piranha,’ with the addition that the trigger hairs are weirdly mutated into thick bristles.

Dionaea 'Scarlet Bristle' (image embedded from flytrapcare.com)

25. Dionaea ‘Wacky Traps’
The leaves are incompletely developed. This is an extremely slow grower that also has strangely distorted flowers. Known in some circles as “Bart Simpson”, but this name has not been established and might even violate some trademark laws.

Dionaea 'Wacky Traps' (image embedded from sarracenia.com)

26. Dionaea Dentate Traps Group
A cultivar group, and not a cultivar, this includes all the plants with marginal spines modified into toothlike or sawtooth structures.

 Infos from the Pros

In this section I will present what do the experts say about care and propagation of flytraps.

To make it simple, you have to pay attention at four aspects to have a healthy venus flytrap: light, soil, watering and dormancy.

Light is very important to flytraps because their natural habitat is in direct sunlight. This subject is though controversial among experts, some say that flytraps die if putted in direct sunlight, some say that they need direct sunlight at least 4 hours a day, other say that flytraps bought from shops aren’t used to direct sunlight and this is the reason they loose leafs at first but they get used to and everything will be OK in time. The thing is that fluorescent light is the best for flytraps, without any ricks. For this you can use fluorescent tubes or fluorescent bulbs. The experts recommend “cool blue” and “cool white” fluorescent light (this is 6500 kelvin color temperature) for growing and warmer colors (3000 kelvin) for flowering.

Venus Flytraps don’t tolerate rich nutrient soil! So you MUST use POOR soil, otherwise the rich nutrient soil will rapidly burn the plants’ roots. This will happen also with liquid fertilizers or other kind of plant minerals and nutrients, so don’t fertilize your flytrap! The best soil to use is peat moss mixed with perlite (1-2 mm sand) in 1:1 proportion.

Flytraps live in boggy regions so, flytraps need a lot of water. Make sure your flytrap lives in an always humid medium, so water your plant frequently. Experts recommend the water to be as pure as it can be like: distilled water, rain water, reverse osmosis water. Experts don’t recommend tap water because it contains all kind of solid substances and minerals that are harmful for the plant, if not immediately than in time, by accumulating in the soil.

The dormancy period is very recommended by the experts because they say that if the dormancy is skipped, the flytrap will die within 18 to 24 months. What is the dormancy? Flytraps live naturally in a region where winter falls. During this period the flytrap almost stops it’s growth and regresses by loosing leafs.When spring comes with full sun and worm weather the flytrap starts again to burst. This process seems that is written in the genetics of the plant and it needs it even if it’s kept by a hobbyst in a warm apartment during all four seasons. So be sure to assure the dormancy of the flytrap every year and take care not to freeze it because it will die in this case!

Venus Flytraps and cancer

It seems that in 1970’s, a German physician began testing liquids pressed from the Venus flytrap to determine whether they could digest abnormal proteins found in cancer cells. Several years later he patented Carnivora. In a 1985 study, he claimed that out of 210 people with various types of cancer, 56% experienced either remission or stabilization of their tumors. He published the findings in a little-known German medical journal, and the results were never verified.

But this is not all, supporters also claim that Carnivora is effective for treating colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, neurodermatitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, and certain types of herpes.

For full article click here.

So people, this is the information that you need to know about Venus Flytraps. In my next article I will present my two varieties of Dionaea muscipula and write about how I take care of them.

Sources:

http://www.sarracenia.com| http://www.flytrapcare.com| http://www.justvenusflytraps.com| http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Venus_Flytrap| http://www.cancer.org| http://www.youtube.com| Google Maps.

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