Killer plants: how do these carnivorous plants capture, kill and eat living prey?

Not satisfied with making food through photosynthesis, these five carnivorous plants capture, kill and eat living prey!


There are over 100 species of drosera, which are commonly known as ‘sundews’ as they appear to be constantly covered in dew. These tiny droplets are actually sticky enzymes that trap and start to digest prey as soon as it lands on the plants’ leaves.






When an insect or arachnid steps on more than one of the tiny hairs of the plant’s jaws, it triggers a violent reaction. The hinged mouth snaps down, trapping the prey inside the plant. Digestive enzymes are secreted and it can be several days until the plant re-opens.




These plants lure insects, and sometimes even rats, into their cup-like pitchers with an attractive scent. Once trapped, the prey drowns in the liquid within the pitcher and is broken down by digestive juices, allowing the plant to absorb the vital nutrients it needs to survive.




This plant catches prey using sticky leaves. The tacky substance is actually full of digestive enzymes, which break down the insects once they become trapped. When winter arrives, some species of pinguicula become quite dormant and cease their carnivorous activities.



Like Nepenthes, sarracenia is a pitcher plant. Insects are attracted to its colour and sweet scent. As they land at the edge of the pitcher, they often fall in, since the edge is very slippery. Once inside, there is no escape due to the smooth, steep sides of the pitcher.



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