Habitat & Distribution
Carnivorous plants can be found on every continent except Antarctica, from tropical rainforests to alpine slopes and from the Florida everglades to the coast of southwest Australia.
Although widely distributed around the world, carnivorous plants’ specialised adaptations mean they are often restricted to niche habitats — some are only found at one or two unique sites. This is one reason why many carnivorous plants are highly vulnerable to habitat degradation and poaching.
What most carnivorous plant habitats have in common is a lack of nutrients and plenty of water.
Bogs and Swamps
Many carnivorous plants are adapted to grow in swamps and peat bogs, often amongst Sphagnum mosses. Sphagnum decomposes very slowly to form peat, and makes the water in the bog highly acidic. These constantly wet environments are typically very poor in nutrients.
Peat extraction for horticulture and land drainage for agriculture are two of the main threats to carnivorous plants in the wild.
Fens are another type of wet, marshy habitat. They differ from bogs in receiving mineral-rich ground- or surface-water, and consequently their soil and water tends to be more less acidic or even alkaline.
Although they are typically richer in nutrients than bogs, fens are home to some carnivorous plants including certain Butterworts (Pinguicula) and Bladderworts (Utricularia).
Seeps and Flushes
Bogs and fens are very wet but the water tends to be still or slow-moving. Some carnivorous plants — including the Albany Pitcher Plant (Cephalotus follicularis) and many Sundews (Drosera) and Butterworts (Pinguicula) — thrive where water is constantly flowing over the ground or seeping from the soil.
Tropical rainforests are home to many carnivorous plants. The rainforests of south-east Asia are home to dozens of species of Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes), many of which have a climbing habit and can grow to large sizes. Some species are epiphytic (grow in trees without contact with the soil).
Some carnivorous plants grow at high altitudes in mountainous regions. Many Nepenthes live in the cooler highland rainforests of Malaysia, while the Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina) is at home in the Alps, Himalayas and Siberia.
Perhaps the most fascinating mountain-dwelling carnivorous plants are the Sun Pitchers (Heliamphora), found only on the tops of the table-like ‘tepui’ mountains of Venezuela, Guyana and northern Brazil.