An insectivorous plant, also called a carnivorous plant, captures prey items, such as insects, spiders, crustaceans, mites, and protozoans, as a nitrogen source. Many insectivorous species live in freshwater bogs, where nitrogen is not present in available form, because the pH of the water is extremely acid. The forms of entrapment by these types of plants are modified leaves. Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants. 1. Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria. 2. Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.
3. Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.
4. Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum. 5. Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs. These traps may be active or passive, depending on whether movement aids the capture of prey. For example, Triphyophyllum is a passive flypaper that secretes mucilage, but whose leaves do not grow or move in response to prey capture. Meanwhile, sundews are active flypaper traps whose leaves undergo rapid acid growth, which is an expansion of individual cells as opposed to cell division. The rapid acid growth allows the sundew tentacles to bend, aiding in the retention and digestion of prey. Pitfall traps
Main article: Pitcher plant
Pitfall traps are thought to have evolved independently on at least four occasions. The simplest ones are probably those of Heliamphora, the marsh pitcher plant. In this genus, the traps are clearly derived evolutionarily from a simple rolled leaf whose margins have sealed together. These plants live in areas of high rainfall in South America such as Mount Roraima and consequently have a problem ensuring their pitchers do not overflow. To counteract this problem, natural selection has favoured the evolution of an overflow similar to that of a bathroom sink—a small gap in the zipped-up leaf margins allows excess water to flow out of the pitcher. Heliamphora is a member of the Sarraceniaceae, a New World family in the order Ericales (heathers and allies). Heliamphora is limited to South America, but the family contains two other genera, Sarracenia and Darlingtonia, which are endemic to the Southeastern United States (with the exception of one species) and California respectively. Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea (the northern pitcher plant) can be found as far north as Canada. Sarracenia is the pitcher plant genus most commonly encountered in cultivation, because it is relatively hardy and easy to grow.
Darlingtonia californica: note the small entrance to the trap underneath the swollen "balloon" and the colourless patches that confuse prey trapped inside. In the genus Sarracenia, the problem of pitcher overflow is solved by an operculum, which is essentially a flared leaflet that covers the opening of the rolled-leaf tube and protects it from rain. Possibly because of this improved waterproofing, Sarracenia species secrete enzymes such as proteases and phosphatases into the digestive fluid at the bottom of the pitcher; Heliamphora relies on bacterial digestion alone. The enzymes digest the proteins and nucleic acids in the prey, releasing amino acids and phosphate ions, which the plant absorbs. Darlingtonia californica, the cobra plant, possesses an adaptation also found in Sarracenia psittacina and, to a lesser extent, in Sarracenia minor: the operculum is balloon-like and almost seals the opening to the tube. This balloon-like chamber is pitted with areolae, chlorophyll-free patches through which light can penetrate. Insects, mostly ants, enter the chamber via the opening underneath the balloon. Once inside, they tire themselves trying to escape from these false exits, until they eventually fall into the tube. Prey access is increased by the "fish tails", outgrowths of the operculum that give the plant its name. Some seedling Sarracenia...