Photo essay: Feeding time for The Green Planet's carnivorous plants

Three species of insect-eaters have been added to the indoor rainforest's collection

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Visitors can see more than 3,000 plants and animals at The Green Planet, Dubai's indoor rainforest. In September last year, the biodome welcomed its first predatory plant inhabitants.

Three species of insect-eating plants were added to the venue's flora and fauna collection – the famous Venus flytrap, as well as pitcher and sundew plants. Nearly 700 species of such plants exist throughout the world, on all continents except Antarctica.

Unlike normal plants that use a process known as photosynthesis to produce their nutrition, carnivorous plants consume animals, typically insects, to keep growing. These plants have adapted to thrive in areas where the soil is nutrient-deficient, so they resort to trapping and killing prey.

This makes for an interesting display at the Dubai venue, where biologists often have to hand feed the plants. In the wild, they use different mechanisms to catch prey. In general, they eat at least every week or two, although they can survive for extended periods without eating, although this leads to a much slower rate of growth.

Perhaps the most recognisable among the three species at The Green Planet is the Venus flytrap, which catches its prey with jaw-like clamps. It is known for its fast hunting tactics that involve detecting vibrations generated by the prey's movements with its “trigger hairs”. The pair of jaws quickly shut as soon as it detects movement.

Pitcher plants, on the other hand, are known for their tubelike leaves. They have flowers that resemble the colour of raw meat, and secrete a scent that attracts prey. The deep cavity of the leaf is filled with digestive enzymes, essentially drowning trapped insects with nectar.

Also in the venue's care are sundew plants, among the largest groups of carnivorous plants with at least 194 different species. The name is based on the dewdrops on their leaves, creating a sticky trap for insects who dare to crawl on them.

Although these plants have no specific diet in the wild, the Dubai venue typically feeds them mealworms, which provide all the nutrients they need. Private owners of carnivorous plants also use mealworms to tend to their carnivorous garden because live insects are simply not present in controlled environments.

Updated: March 01, 2024, 6:01 PM