Searching for flesh-eating plants

Wildflowers with an appetite for meat

Meat eaters.” “Carnivorous.” “Flesh-eaters.” “Immobile predators.”

That’s a description of wildflowers and plants that gets my adrenalin racing. And quite frankly, these weird plants represent why we like to travel and wander – to experience new things. We don’t want to get stuck on canyon views, waterfalls and elk sightings.

The United States features 66 species of carnivorous plants, with approximately 35 in our home state of North Carolina.

According to experts, a plant needs five characteristics, or abilities, to be considered “carnivorous”: 1) to attract prey; 2) capture prey; 3) kill prey; 4) digest prey; 5) absorb the prey’s nutrients. As a reminder, we do our best to provide you with good information on our topics, but we’re not botanists – we are just wanderers who like to explore new “stuff’ in the Great Outdoors.

One day while exploring a national wildlife refuge in South Carolina, I met a naturalist in the field who pointed out a grouping of carnivorous plants. We could see them flowering across a pond, but I couldn’t reach them because I wasn’t geared up for a marshy hike. So I returned the following week and now I’m hooked on meat-eating plants. They’re fascinating.

The rest of this article showcases some of the photos I took while nerding-out in swamps, bogs and marshes in search of carnivorous plants. All of these sightings took place in mid-April to late May in two main areas: the Green Swamp Preserve, NC and Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, SC. We at Wandering Rose Travels hope you find these plants as interesting as we do.

Venus flytraps are cultivated around the world but these plants are native only to very limited regions in North and South Carolina.
Venus flytraps are cultivated around the world but these plants are native only to very limited regions in North and South Carolina.
To successfully find a Venus flytrap in the forest undergrowth, look for its flower that grows about one foot from the base.
To successfully find a Venus flytrap in the forest undergrowth, look for its flower that grows about one foot from the base.
Carnivorous plants typically grow in swamps and bogs, which are acidic and low in nutrients. Since these plants can’t get nutrients from the soil, they get them from flesh.
Carnivorous plants typically grow in swamps and bogs, which are acidic and low in nutrients. Since these plants can’t get nutrients from the soil, they get them from flesh.
The twitchy tentacles of carnivorous sundew can catapult prey into the plant's sticky traps in a fraction of a second. These snares are among the fastest in the plant world.
The twitchy tentacles of carnivorous sundew can catapult prey into the plant's sticky traps in a fraction of a second. These snares are among the fastest in the plant world.
This flower belongs to the yellow pitcher plant and, in early spring, it grows well above the main plant to avoid trapping pollinators.
This flower belongs to the yellow pitcher plant and, in early spring, it grows well above the main plant to avoid trapping pollinators.
Technically, the pitcher plant doesn’t eat the meat of the prey. That’s done by other organisms that hang out and loiter inside the pitcher plant. The pitcher plant actually eats the poop of the other organisms. Gross, but effective.
Technically, the pitcher plant doesn’t eat the meat of the prey. That’s done by other organisms that hang out and loiter inside the pitcher plant. The pitcher plant actually eats the poop of the other organisms. Gross, but effective.
The meat-eating purple pitcher plant produces an early flower, which hardly looks threatening.
The meat-eating purple pitcher plant produces an early flower, which hardly looks threatening.
Purple pitcher plant tubes are covered with down-pointing hairs that prevent prey from crawling back out.
Purple pitcher plant tubes are covered with down-pointing hairs that prevent prey from crawling back out.
Pitcher plants come in a variety of species, like this hooded version.
Pitcher plants come in a variety of species, like this hooded version.
The carnivorous butterwort plant uses a sticky paste-like substance on its leaves to trap bugs. Digestion takes about one day.
The carnivorous butterwort plant uses a sticky paste-like substance on its leaves to trap bugs. Digestion takes about one day.
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