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Educational Games for IPad and IPhone. English Grammar and Science Apps for Elementary and Middle School Kids.

Carnivorous Plants

Sundew, Bladderworts, Pitcher Plants, Venus fly trap and Pinguicula

Animals that feed on other animals’ meat are called carnivorous animals. However, what are carnivorous plants? They are the same; they eat insects (meat), only difference is they are plants, and not animals.

Tropical rainforests are full of wonders, while they are home to a variety of colorful plants and animals; they are also home to what are known as carnivorous plants.

These plants’ main attraction is their outward beauty; they are brightly colored, and rather mysterious looking, but extremely deadly, if an insect gets too close.

Carnivorous plants have a central cavity, which is filled with nectar to attract insects. These cavities also have little bristles positioned downward, so that when the insect settles at the mouth of the cavity, these bristles prevent them from getting out.

The cavity also often has a lid, which closes the moment the insect enters, and traps him within the plant. Once the insect is trapped, the plant has digestive juices (similar to those found in our stomachs) that help to digest its prey.

The sundew resembles fireworks. It has tiny reddish leaves with little dew drops of nectar at its ends, which glisten in the sunlight. This nectar attracts the insects close, and once the insect is stuck on the sticky nectar, the plant’s leaves (tentacles) trigger to wrap themselves around. As it tightens, the insect dies out of suffocation or tiredness. Once the insect dies, the plant’s digestive juices finish the job.

Bladderworts grow underwater in tropical rainforests. It is the only carnivorous plant to have a proper trap door, and can swallow its prey (usually crustaceans like mosquito larvae) in less than a millisecond.

The little glands in the bladderwort appear flat like a leaf when it is empty (it has a suction pump system that can pump water in and out). The mouth of the gland and the rest of the sac have tiny trigger hairs that activate when a prey comes close.

The one-way trap door triggers within the sack, which activates the suction pump, sucking water, in, along with the helpless insect.

Once the insect is inside, the plant lets out the water and shuts the door. The insect is trapped inside and is digested by the enzymes secreted.

Pitcher plants grow in rainforests, but as vines on the trucks on other trees. They can climb as much as 30 feet, and got their name from the shape of their leaves, which are shaped like pitchers. The edges of the leaves are waxy, slippery and covered with nectar.

Insects get attracted to the smell of the nectar, (or sometimes an ultraviolet light) but slip and fall in when they land on its slippery sides.

The inside of the pitcher is filled with a digestive fluid that traps and digests its prey. While they are mostly known to trap insects, some of its larger varieties are big enough even to eat rats.

Venus flytraps, now considered extremely endangered and grown mostly in greenhouses, have leaves that open wide, with stiff trigger hairs on their insides. If an insect or leaf touches these hairs enough to trigger a reaction, the two lobes of the plant fly in together in less than a second, trapping its prey.

The Venus flytrap is very selective in what it eats. Things that it cannot digest, like nuts or stones, or even very small insects, are spat out after about 12 hours, because they would not provide enough nutrition.

Another attractive carnivore of the rainforest is the pinguicula (butterwort). It produces beautiful bright flowers, which attract insects to its leaves. These leaves are covered in greasy hairs that trap gnats, the plant’s main food source.

The leaves of the butterwort take hours to slowly wrap around its insect, gently suffocating it, unlike the Venus flytrap and the bladderwort, which quickly trap their prey. The pinguicula is only a carnivore during summer, eating only leaves during winter.