Frequently Asked Questions
Are carnivorous plants dangerous?
Not unless you’re an insect or other small creature. Man-eating plants are total fiction. The largest prey known to have been captured by carnivorous plants are small mammals and amphibians.
Do carnivorous plants have venom?
Not as such — we’re not aware of any carnivorous plant that relies on toxins to kill its prey.
The toxic alkaloid coniine — which can have paralysing effects on insects — has been detected in small quantities in several Sarracenia species. It’s possible that coniine intoxicates insects, making them more vulnerable to being trapped. Coniine also has a distinctive scent, so it’s not yet clear whether its role in Sarracenia may be to attract prey rather than as a poison.
Can carnivorous plants move?
Yes. Many carnivorous plants exhibit movement to some extent, and some have traps that can react astonishingly quickly. The fastest are the Bladderworts (Utricularia spp.) whose mechanical traps can open, suck in prey and close again within a few milliseconds.
With the exception of some free-floating aquatic species, although they may have fast-moving parts, carnivorous plants themselves don’t move from where they began growing.
How do carnivorous plants avoid eating their pollinators?
This is certainly a risk — in fact scientists found that one carnivorous plant, the Butterwort Pinguicula vallisneriifolia, does appear to limit its own ability to reproduce by catching insects that would otherwise carry its pollen.
Many carnivorous plants have evolved effective strategies to reduce the risk of trapping pollinators. One common approach is simply to grow flowers on tall stalks, which carry the flower high up away from the traps. Another is to give their flowers colours that contrast strongly from their traps. Some carnivorous plants time their flowering to occur when their traps aren’t fully functional.
Recent research published in the journal Nature showed that at least one species of Sundew, Drosera auriculata, uses different combinations of scents to attract pollinators to its flowers than to entice prey to its leaves.
Are there wild carnivorous plants in the UK?
Yes — there are several species of carnivorous plants native to the United Kingdom as well as a few naturally-occurring hybrids. Some non-native species have also been introduced to UK habitats where unfortunately they can become harmfully invasive.
Are carnivorous plants rare?
Not all of them. While many species are sadly threatened with extinction in the wild, some are relatively common and widespread. For example, if you live in Scotland or Wales then it’s quite likely you’re within 10km of a round-leaved sundew Drosera rotundifolia.
Overall, however, the outlook for many carnivorous plants is bleak due to habitat destruction and poaching.
Are carnivorous plants hard to grow?
No, many are very easy. Examples of plants that will do well in a UK garden year-round include the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), many Trumpet Pitchers (Sarracenia) and some Sundews (Drosera). Others are happy on a sunny windowsill. If you have access to a greenhouse or conservatory there are many carnivorous plant species that should be easy to keep.
You can find lots more information about growing carnivorous plants in our Cultivation section.