Do you remember your childhood?
Those moments when something in nature captivated you?
Perhaps it was the first time you saw a caterpillar munching away at a leaf, or a rose plant covered in aphids. Perhaps it was a line of ants carting treats back to the nest.
Children are often captivated by carnivorous plants.
Not only is it a wonderful way to show that nature is unique and varied, but it’s a gentle introduction to the concept of predators, adaptations and how the environment creates balance.
Exploring Carnivorous plants with kids
When we saw a venus fly trap at a garden centre last month, I showed my eldest daughter how the trap was triggered. Using a small stick, I put pressure on the inside of a trap and we watched it close.
She was shocked and excited. She stood at the display for ages, closing all the traps.
I’m not kidding. She closed every single one.
It was a pretty strong indication that she was really interested.
We bought the Venus Fly Trap and a Trumpet Pitcher Plant to take home. I wanted to explore the two different types of carnivorous plants with her.
Taking care of your carnivorous plants
First, we had to learn how to take care of our plants.
After reading the tag that came with the plants, we learnt that taking care of these plants is slightly different from your average garden plant.
They need access to water at all times, so it’s important to keep them in a tray of water. They also require plenty of sun. If your plant starts to get a little burnt from the direct sunlight, you’ll need to move it into an area that has slightly less sun through the heat of the day.
We learnt the hard way!
Learning about why plants capture insects
My daughter asked why all the plants in our garden don’t catch insects. This was a perfect opportunity to learn more about these plants and why they catch insects.
We watched a few You Tube clips to find out why plants have adapted to eating insects.
We learnt that carnivorous plants usually live in areas where nutrients in their environment are scarce, so they need to eat animals to have their needs met.
Different capture methods of carnivorous plants
We found out that both carnivorous plants attract insects using their coloration and nectar. The difference between the two plants is how they trap their prey.
The traps of the Venus Fly Trap spring shut once the trigger hairs are touched, trapping the insect inside, whilst the Trumpet Pitcher Plant draws the insect close to the tube’s edge and the insect falls down where it drowns in the plants digestive juices. Not so pleasant for little ones, but my eldest didn’t seem to mind!
Where to get a Venus Fly Trap and Trumpet Pitcher Plant?
Like us, you can go to your local garden shop and see if they have any for sale. If they don’t, ask them if they can get them in. You can also buy them online!
Of course, there may be restrictions on these two plants in different countries. Perhaps you could find out if there are any native predatory plants in your country.
Follow up activities
- Learn more about predators and prey
- Learn more about other types of predatory plants. Carnivorous plants by David Attenborough is another great You Tube Clip to learn about more carnivorous plants.
- Discuss insect control – chemical vs. natural
- Find out more about the predators to insects