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Carnivorous Plants - Conservation And Protection Of Carnivorous Plants

species wild habitat flytrap

Most species of carnivorous plants are rare, and many are endangered. The principle threats to these species are habitat destruction caused by the drainage A slender-leaved sundew (Drosera linearis) in Bruce National Park, Ontario. Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission. and infilling of wetlands and bogs to develop housing, and ecological conversions associated with agriculture and forestry. The mining of bog peat for horticultural materials or as a source of energy is another threat to some species of carnivorous plants. In addition, some species of carnivorous plants are actively collected in the wild to supply the horticultural trade, and this can seriously threaten the populations of those species.

Venus flytrap is a famous North American example of a carnivorous plant that is endangered in the wild. The natural distribution of this species is restricted to a small area of the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, fringing inland as far as 124 mi (200 km) along about 186 mi (300 km) of the coast, on either side of Cape Fear. However, the Venus flytrap only occurs today in a few small, scattered remnants of its natural habitat, associated with open spots in acidic bogs and pine savannas. To some degree this species has been endangered in the wild by excessive collecting in the past, but the modern threat is mostly associated with habitat losses to urbanization, agriculture, and forestry.

Fortunately, the Venus flytrap and many other species of carnivorous plants are fairly easy to propagate by vegetative means, usually by sowing leaf fragments onto moist sphagnum peat. For these species, there is no need to collect plants from the wild to supply the economic demands of horticulture.

However, some other species of carnivorous plants cannot be easily propagated in greenhouses, and the demand for these species by aficionados of these charismatic carnivores must be satisfied by collecting wild plants. In some cases, these demands are resulting in unsustainable harvests that are endangering wild populations, for example, of some of the species of the tropical Eurasian pitcher plant, Nepenthes.

However, even species that can be propagated in greenhouses may be collected from the wild for sale to horticulturalists, because quick and easy profits can be made in this way. So, if you decide to try to grow carnivorous plants as unusual pets, ensure that you are obtaining stock that was cultivated in a greenhouse, and not collected from the wild.


Resources

Books

Juniper, B.E., R.J. Robins, and D.M. Joel. The Carnivorous Plants. San Diego: Academic Press, 1989.

Lecoufle, M. Carnivorous Plants: Care and Cultivation. Blandford, U.K.: Sterling Publishing Co., 1991.

Schwartz, R. Carnivorous Plants. New York: Avon Books, 1975.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

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Carnivorous plant

—A plant that supplements its nutrient requirements by trapping, killing, and digesting small animals, most commonly insects.

Oligotrophic

—Refers to a waterbody or wetland with a restricted supply of nutrients and a small rate of productivity.

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