Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients (but not energy) from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants have adapted to grow in places with high light where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings. Charles Darwin wrote ''Insectivorous Plants'', the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants, in 1875.
True carnivory is thought to have evolved independently nine times in five different orders of flowering plants, and is represented by more than a dozen genera. This classification includes at least 583 species that attract, trap and kill prey, absorbing the resulting available nutrients.〔〔Barthlott, W., S. Porembski, R. Seine & I. Theisen (translated by M. Ashdown) 2007. (''The Curious World of Carnivorous Plants: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Biology and Cultivation'' ). Timber Press, Portland.〕 Additionally, over 300 protocarnivorous plant species in several genera show some but not all of these characteristics.
Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants.
# Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.
# Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.
# Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.
# Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum.
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.〔Williams, S. E. 2002. (Comparative physiology of the Droseraceae ''sensu stricto''—How do tentacles bend and traps close? ) Proceedings of the 4th International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference. Tokyo, Japan. pp. 77-81.〕
The sundew species ''Drosera glanduligera'' employs a unique trapping mechanism with features of both flypaper and snap traps; this has been termed a ''catapult-flypaper trap''.
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