Plants are just like most other organisms on Earth. They need to have the proper nutrition to survive. A lot of plants get their nutrients by pulling them out of their soil. However, a few plants thrive by eating other creatures, especially insects. The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is such a plant. Don’t worry, though, a Venus flytrap is too small to harm you or your pets unless you keep beetles or bees. Today, we are going to examine the largest Venus flytrap ever recorded and show you everything that makes this plant so worthy of our attention.
What is a Venus Fly Trap?
A Venus flytrap is an endangered carnivorous plant that catches prey in a specialized area of its leaves. The plants often grow in small clusters that feature four to seven leaves. Each of them ends in one of the traps, a structure that can open and close. These traps are usually about 0.5 to 1 inch in width and feature extensions that resemble teeth along the closing edges.
The inside of the trap is covered in small trigger hairs. The structures sense when an insect lands on the trap, causing it to close. This is a complex process that we will detail in the next section.
Also, some people may not have heard of this plant, and there’s a good reason for that. After all, it is only native to small portions of North Carolina and South Carolina in the United States. Specifically, they tend to grow in bogs where there is little grass and groundcover along with less competition for resources.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the plants, let’s take a look at how they eat.
How Does the Venus Flytrap Find Its Food?
We’ve already mentioned that the Venus flytrap has trigger hairs on the trap’s interior. A very specific type of stimulation is required to get the Venus flytrap to close. A single incidence of contact will not force the trap to close.
Otherwise, there would be too many false positives that would cause the trap to close. The plant would miss out on valuable nourishment. Thus, two contacts must occur in less than half a minute or less to trigger the trap.
Once the right stimulation occurs, the trap will close. The initial springing of the plant may occur in less than a second, but it takes minutes for the entire leaf to close up. Once the food is trapped, the plant seals up, floods enzymes into the area, and digests the bug. The plant gains valuable nutrients over a week or so, and then the trap reopens and waits for another meal.
Of course, these plants may close from other stimulation, too. Humans can place items in the trap portion and force them to close. Doing this too often will cause the plant to wither.
What Do Venus Flytraps Eat?
The diet of Venus flytraps is mostly insects and arachnids. However, one of the greatest determining factors of what a flytrap consumes is based on the size of the plant.
Some of the most common foods eaten by this plant include:
These bugs are the ones that have the right size and weight to fit in the traps. Moreover, they are the ones most likely to climb into the trap and trigger it to close.
Measuring the Largest Venus Flytrap
Determining the largest Venus flytrap is easiest to do when measuring the width of the trap portion of the plant. These plants grow with several offshoots on them, so measuring the entire size of the plant doesn’t really inform us about the largest one.
Furthermore, larger. entangled clusters of these plants may form. Sometimes they divide into colonies below the soil. As a result, it’s a somewhat fruitless endeavor to measure these plants by their overall size. Thus, focusing solely on the trap mechanism is the best and most accurate means to determine the record-holding size.
How Big Was the Largest Venus Flytrap?
The largest Venus flytrap measured 2.4 inches across at the midpoint. This record was achieved in June 2021. The plant belongs to a man named Jeremiah Harris, a man living in the United States. The plant was grown from a cultivar that is nicknamed “Alien.” Like many other plants, the Venus flytrap has various cultivars that are bred for unique traits.
In this case, the Alien cultivar is known for producing rather large traps on the ends of the plant. The 2.4-inch traps almost resemble pea pods due to their width and length. It is currently unknown what diet Harris feeds them to help them achieve this large size.
Another interesting thing about this record-holding Venus flytrap is that the previous entry was another Alien specimen. This one was also grown by Jeremiah Harris, and it measured 1.96 inches. This record was issued in 2020. We don’t know if there is fierce competition to grow the biggest one of these plants or if Harris is just very good at it.
Either way, this new record seems to be the first time that a flytrap over 2 inches has been grown and recorded. According to a website published by Harris, he founded the Colorado Carnivorous Plant Society and maintains an extensive collection of such plants.
Due to the recent upswing in carnivorous plant growth and broken records, it seems possible that Harris could pursue another record soon. Currently, we don’t know what the upper limits of the trap sizes are or how they can be reached.
Final Thoughts on the Biggest Flytraps
The Venus flytrap is a rather unique and somewhat beautiful plant in its own way. Sure, it consumes insects. Yet, it’s a complex being that seems to blur the line between plant and animal. Of course, it’s only plant.
The limited distribution of this carnivorous plant in its native area is a cause for concern. While the plant is widely distributed in the world today, it’s losing ground in the Carolinas. Unfortunately, many of the conditions that help it grow, flooded savannahs, bogs, and fire-prone areas, are disappearing. This plant may become much harder to find in its original area.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Chrispo/Shutterstock.com
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