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Carnivorous Plants Thrive in Polk

Published on May 3, 2021

Finding a carnivorous plant in Florida is far from any scene in Little Shop of Horrors.

No, they won’t eat you. They won’t talk to you like Audrey II. And they don’t (thankfully) demand a lot of attention or sacrifice. In fact, you probably wouldn’t know they are there if you weren’t looking for them.

Florida is home more carnivorous plants than any other state in the U.S. Here we have 14 species of bladderworts, six species each of pitcher plants and butterworts and five species of sundews. And while most are found in the panhandle, a few can be found here in Polk, namely the pitcher plant and sundew.

This is a great time of year to find these beautiful plants. And they are only deadly to the small insects they rely on fur nutrition. They use appealing (only to insects) scents and sticky fluids to trap their prey before digesting them in other fluids to gain their nutrients.

Many of these plants are native to Florida and found in some of the boggy areas of Polk’s Environmental Lands properties.

The hooded pitcher plant, which can be found here, typically flowers between April and May and they live in mesic and wet flatwoods and cutthroat grass wet prairies, margins of depression marshes and dome swamps.

They lure their prey with a nectar secretion and once insects are on the lip of the pitcher, they can slip on its waxy opening and fall inside. Once there, hairs that point downward prevent the insect from escaping. The plant then secretes a digestive enzyme and fluids in the pitcher so once the insects die of drowning or exhaustion, their nutrients are absorbed into the plant.

More information on hooded pitcher plants

Sundew plants are another interesting category of carnivorous plants found here, found mostly in swamps and bogs.

The leaves of a sundew are covered in small, hair-like structures that glisten with a drop of moisture, which looks like dew. But don’t be fooled, it isn’t. This adaptation allows the plant to attract, capture, kill and digest its unsuspecting prey.

The glistening liquid droplets are actually a fragrant (to bugs), sticky mucus that contains enzymes that can digest the bugs it captures. Once a bug lands on a petal, the leaves begin to curl around it and cover it with the mucus, which eventually suffocates the insect. The plant then uses that mucus to break down the insect and digest it through its leaves.

More information on sundew plants