Carnivorous Plants: Trapping mechanisms Evolution, Distribution and Uses


Dear, Students Have you ever heard of plants that consume meat? Various plant species, like several animal species, are carnivorous, which means they eat insects and other tiny creatures as a primary source of nutrients and minerals for growth. Instead of eating insects, carnivorous plants use a variety of methods to catch them, depending on the type of plant. After flies, grasshoppers, and spiders are caught, the prey is digested by a pool of enzymes generated by the plant. Pitcher plants, Carnivorous plants, and Insectivorous plants are some of the other names for them. Insectivorous plants often use bright colors, tasty secretions, etc to catch insects.

Carnivorous plants have evolved to attract and capture prey, as well as take nutrients from their bodies. Although a handful has been reported to catch lizards, rats, and tiny birds, most carnivorous plants are small and incapable of feasting on anything other than insects. Carnivorous plants, like normal plants, have chlorophyll and can produce carbohydrates through photosynthesis. However, they thrive in settings with poor soil and benefit from the increased nitrogen and other nutrients that trapping animals provide. The goal of carnivory could be to improve the plant’s competitive advantage by increasing biomass or flowering and seed set.

Carnivorous plants can be found throughout the United States, although they are especially plentiful and diverse in flood plains and tiny wetlands in the Southeast. Nepenthes khasiana is a pitcher plant that can be found in India.

Carnivorous Plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants with a pitfall trap, a deep depression filled with liquid that they use to catch their prey. Pitfall traps have evolved widely as a result of epiascidiation, with selection pressure favoring more deeply cupped leaves throughout time. The pitcher trap originated in three eudicot lineages and one monocot branch separately, demonstrating convergent evolution. Some pitcher plant families (such as Nepenthaceae) are classified as clades dominated by flypaper traps, implying that some pitchers may have evolved from the common ancestors of today’s flypaper traps via mucilage loss.

Pitcher Plant

Flying or crawling insects, such as flies, are drawn to the cupped leaf’s hollow for age, typically by visual lures such as anthocyanin colors and nectar incentives. When the rim of the pitcher (peristome) is saturated by condensation or honey, it becomes slippery, allowing insects to slide into the entrap. On the inside of the pitcher, waxy scales, protruding aldehyde crystals, cuticular folds, downward-pointing hairs, or guard-cell-originating lunate cells may be found to prevent insects from climbing out. Phytotelmata are the little liquid bodies trapped within the pitcher traps. They drown the bug, and its body dissolves over time. This can happen as a result of bacterial action or enzymes released by the plant itself. Furthermore, certain pitcher plants harbor mutualistic insect larvae that feed on trapped animals and absorb their excrement. The prey items are transformed into a solution of amino acids, peptides, phosphates, ammonium, and urea, from which the plant derives its mineral nutrition, regardless of the manner of digestion (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus). They develop in habitats where the soil is deficient in minerals and/or too acidic for most plants to survive, as do all carnivorous plants.


Carnivorous plants need unique growing conditions. Most species are grown in a mix of five parts phagnum peat moss, two parts perlite, and one part horticultural charcoal, which is acidic and poor in nutrients. Almost all predators thrive in humid environments with continually damp soil. To avoid mineral accumulation in the soil, the plants should be watered with rain or deionized water. The majority of the collection is kept in the sunniest area of the greenhouse complex, as most species demand high-intensity light levels. In-vitro propagation is also used to develop carnivorous plants.

Pitcher plant trapping mechanisms

Carnivorous plants have a variety of trapping techniques.

Adhesive trap

The adhesive trap is the most basic trapping technique. It also has three mechanisms in it. Fixed tentacles (Roridula,) and Mobile tentacles (Drosera), but the flypaper-like leaves of Pinguicula have unique sets stalked glands that exude sticky mucilage that captures small organisms. The glands are stalked so that the leaf does not become encrusted in slime while waiting for a victim.

Pitfall trap

Pitfall traps have two different mechanisms: open with a pool of water (e.g. Heliamphora, Nepenthes, Brocchinia, Cephalotus, Catopsis, Sarracenia purpurea, and S. Rosea) and covered or no pool of water (e.g. Heliamphora, Nepenthes, Brocchinia, Cephalotus, Catopsis, Sarracenia purpurea). Pitfall traps are folded into deep, slimy pools filled with digestive enzymes in pitcher plant leaves. Pitfall traps are leaves that have been altered to seem like pits. Pitfall traps have significantly modified leaves, each with its trap. To attract prey, the traps may feature nectaries, brilliant colors, or a flower-like scent. Hairs on the traps may guide prey to the trap opening or force prey to fall into the trap. The trap’s edge is normally smooth, while the inside is usually waxy. Victims are sunk in pools of water in open pool traps. At least four times, pitfall traps are thought to have evolved on their own. They are phytotelmata, which are water bodies that are composed or secreted into specialized containers and then arrested by plants for various activities, including the capturing and digesting of animals.


Lobster pot trap

Lobster-pot traps made of corkscrew plants have twisted tubular passageways with bristles and glands. Darlingtonia and Sarracenia psittacina both feature a trap similar to lobster traps. A lobster pot has an entrance that prey can easily locate and enter from the outside, but it is difficult to locate or depart from the inside. lobster traps, for example (Sarracenia psittacina, Darlingtonia) 

Pigeon trap

Genlisea plants are grown in water or on water-soaked soil. Protozoans are the main food source. Prey penetrates the trap by pushing past hairs that point inward. They can’t get out of the trap once they’re inside. Suction traps are hugely modified leaves in the shape of a bladder with a hinged door laced with trigger hairs, which are unique to bladderworts. The Utricularia suction trap leaf is thought to be the most complicated plant leaf on the globe. The traps prepare themselves by pushing water out of the sealed trap, generating a vacuum if there was no air present. They function so swiftly when triggered that high-speed video cameras show the victim outside the trap one frame and already sucked within the next. The prey is digested once inside the trap, and the trap rearms itself. (e.g.Utricularia).

Pitcher plant evolution and distribution

Carnivorous plants have developed in a variety of ways across several groups. There are over 600 carnivorous species known, which are divided into six angiosperm subclasses and include monocotyledons and dicotyledons. There are roughly 600 species in this group that attract and capture prey, create digestive enzymes, and suck up the nutrients that are released as a result. Furthermore, around 300 proto carnivorous plant species from many genera exhibit some, but not all, of these traits. Carnivorous plants can be found all around the planet, although the Guyana Highlands, the southeastern United States, and Western Australia have the most species diversity and abundance. In regions of West Africa, extensive carnivorous plant diversity has recently been revealed in wet, treeless, ephemeral-flush vegetation on granitic and gneissic out fields. Darwin (1875) confirmed once and for all that true heterotrophy occurred in an autotrophic Kingdom by providing the first precise experimental evidence for carnivory in several plant taxa.

Nine angiospermous families contain insectivorous plants. However, the Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae families are the most well-known and largest groups of pitcher plants, with three families in India. Droseraceae, Nepenthaceae, and Lentibulariaceae are the three principal groups of insectivorous plants in India. The following are the families:

The most well-known and largest pitcher families are Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae.


Nepenthes is the only genus in the Nepenthaceae family, with over 100 species and countless hybrids and cultivars. Pitcher plants, often known as key cups, are a genus of carnivorous plants belonging to the Nepenthaceae family. Monkeys have been seen drinking rainwater from these plants, hence the name “monkey cups.” The leaves of Nepenthes plants are divided into a photosynthetically active lamina and a pitcher trap, as well as mug-shaped structures, specialized for capturing, keeping, and digesting prey. The lid, peristome, and upper waxy and lower glandular zones inside the pitcher are frequently made up of diverse structural and functional zones.


Nepenthes khasiana

The tropical pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana belongs to the genus Nepenthes. It is the only Nepenthes species native to India and is mostly endemic to the Khasi Hills in North East India, with approximately 70 species. It also emits ultraviolet light, which is supposed to attract prey. N. khasiana is a small, sturdy shrub with sub-cylindrical pitchers that grow prostrate to ascending undergrowth. These pitchers are made using leaf blades that have been changed. The lengthy petiole’s base gets flattened into a leaf blade-like structure called a phyllode. The tendril is a narrow wiry spring-like structure that coils around supporting plants at the distal end of the petiole. The pitchers dangle in the air, brightly colored, green, yellow, or a mosaic of these colors. They come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from 5 to 30 centimeters in length. The pitcher’s mouth is adorned with a colorful half-open lid. The pitfall form of trap is confirmed by Nepenthes. Nepenthes khasiana is propagated utilizing the Micropropagation method, which involves seed germination and nodal explants, and thousands of plants have been restored into their natural environments.


They are New World pitcher plants (Sarraceniaceae), which are divided into three genera. The top of the tube generally has a rolled lip (the peristome) that secretes nectar and smells; below it. Regardless of species, the inside of the pitcher tube can be divided into three to five distinct zones: zone 1 is the operculum zone 2 is the peristome and rest of the trap entrance, and zones 3 and 4 (which in some species are combined) and 5 (only present in S. purpurea) are additional tube divisions. Each of these zones serves a specific purpose and has morphophysiological properties to match.

Sarracenia red

Sarracenia pitcher plant

Sarracenia is a genus of pitcher plants native to North America, with 8 to 11 species known as trumpet pitchers. The majority of them are grown in the southern United States. To trap insects, the plant’s leaves have developed into a funnel, with proteases and other enzymes digesting their prey. A nectar-like fluid on the lip of pitchers, as well as a mix of color and aroma, attracts the insects. Insects fall inside due to slippery footing at the pitcher’s rim, which is facilitated in at least one species by a narcotic substance lacing the nectar. Sarracenia is an herbaceous perennial plant with multiple tubular pitcher-shaped leaves radiating out from the growth point and then curving upwards with their trap openings facing the center of the crown. They develop from a subterranean rhizome. A vertical tube with a hood is used as the trap (the operculum)

Pitcher plant in the north (Sarracenia purpurea)

The Purple Pitcher Plant is North America’s most common carnivorous plant. It can be found up to Canada on the Florida panhandle. The hue of the plant can range from lime green to dark purple. Red and purple flowers are produced by the Purple Pitcher. Rainwater pools at the tube’s bottom, drowning any insects that happen to fall in. The rhizome of Sarracenia purpurea produces a tuft of 410 hollow leaves, which form pitchers that trap insects and other tiny animals. The hood is curled around the pitcher’s mouth. A pitfall trap is a trapping mechanism.

Sarracenia purple

Sweet pitcher plant (Sarracenia rubra)

The leaves of the Sweet Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia rubra) are slender, hollow, and red-veined. Because the hood of this pitcher plant doesn’t quite reach the tops of the leaves, the pitcher frequently fills with rainfall. On a leafless stalk, the blossom is a deep red to maroon color. It grows in a variety of habitats, including pocosins and wet pine savannas, as well as along Carolina bay margins and sandhill seep sites. Sweet Trumpet grows in northern Florida; in the spring, the Sweet Trumpet has fewer and weaker tubes. Summer tubes are larger and taller, ranging in height from 5 to 19 inches. Sweet Trumpet emits a sweet, rose-like aroma. In the spring, it blooms with little red flowers.

Trumpet white (Sarracenia leucophylla)

Many consider the White Trumpet (Sarracenia leucophylla) to be the most beautiful of the American pitcher plant species. White Trumpets have green pitchers near the bottom, while the upper section of the pitcher and the pitcher lid are dazzling white, laced with green or red veins, as the name suggests. This species’ flowers are big and red. Due to habitat degradation and overharvesting for the cut-flower trade, this plant has become rare in certain locations where it once thrived.

Trumpet leaves

Importance and uses of pitcher plants

Pitcher plants are commonly utilized in herbal medicine.

1. Sarracenia purpurea dried-leaf tea is used to cure fever and chills, while the root is used to treat smallpox, lung, and liver problems.

2. Used as a diuretic and as a childbirth aid.

3. Carnivorous plants’ secretions contain antifungal chemicals (secondary metabolites), which could lead to the creation of a new class of antifungal medications that are effective against infections that are resistant to present antifungal drugs.

4. Pitcher plant is used to treat digestive problems, including constipation, urinary tract infections, as a diuretic, to treat smallpox, and to prevent scarring.

5. It’s used to treat fevers, tremors, and labor pains, as well as as a fertility aid in the absence of a menstrual cycle.

6. Smallpox was once treated with a root infusion. Pitcher plant roots can also be cooked down for a decoction over a long period. This decoction is commonly administered to women during labor to aid in the expulsion of the placenta, as well as after birth.

7. The decoction can also be utilized to treat bloody coughs and pulmonary issues.

8. Plants in attendance are oddly lovely and strange-looking. As a result, they are utilized as decorative plants in gardens.

9. Pitcher plants kill ants, flies, wasps, bees, beetles, slugs, and snails, making them an ideal pest management option. Pitcher plants have been known to catch and kill small creatures such as rodents and frogs.

10. Pitcher plant is available as tablets, liquids, and teas in health and medicine stores. Stomach and digestive issues, as well as urinary tract infections, are treated with derivatives of the roots and leaves.

11. Tannins are substances found in pitcher plant leaves and roots that are supposed to aid with stomach issues.

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