While Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors’ giant man-eating plant from outer space, is pure fiction, some of his scary attributes are rooted in fact. Carnivorous plants, commonly known as pitcher plants, are full of surprises. How well do you know your flesh-eating flora?
True or false?
A. Carnivorous plants eat humans and house pets.
B. Carnivorous plants can grow so large you can cook dinner in their traps.
C. Carnivorous plants are so efficient, high-end hotels use them to control fruit flies.
D. Carnivorous plants can be trained to guard your house.
E. Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial flower is an insect killer.
While E, the provincial flower, might not have fooled anyone, believe it or not, B and C are also true. According to Jack Wootton, carnivorous plant collector and owner of Hawaiian Botanicals & Water Gardens, locals in Southeast Asia sometimes cook rice in the pitcher of a Nepenthes plant. These carnivorous vines can grow more than 30 feet long, and their insect-eating pitcher, once cleaned out, can hold up to four litres of liquid. While the size is handy for humans, it’s all too often lethal for insects, small frogs and the odd, unfortunate rodent.
And what about those pesky fruit flies? They’re no longer a problem for bartenders serving fancy cocktails at the Fairmont Whistler thanks to insect-hungry—and human-friendly—plants.
Should you be scared? Not unless you’re an insect. And then? Well, your number just might be up.
Worldwide, approximately 600 species of carnivorous plants are luring, trapping and sucking the life out of insects. Here in North America, about 45 species are making bugs nervous. While these plants don’t like harsh prairie winters, sphagnum bogs in British Columbia, the Maritimes and Ontario host a range of native sundews.