If ever a plant turned the table on insects, Venus's flytrap is the one. Native to the nutrient-starved bogs of the Carolinas, it forms a low rosette of semi- evergreen leaves to 56 in. long. At the tip of each leaf are two hinged lobes that form a 1- to 2-in.-long trap, its margins lined with stout bristles and nectar-producing glands. Insects are attracted to the nectar, and when their movement triggers the tiny, sensitive hairs inside the trap, it closes quickly, ensnaring the hapless insect-turned-dinner within the interlocking bristles. The plants use this mechanism to obtain nutrients unavailable in the soil. Tiny white flowers appear in summer. Leaves and traps of the species are green to yellowish green, and traps are often flushed red. Selection 'Akai Ryu' displays bright red stems and carmine-red traps.
Unfortunately, Venus's flytraps are collected from the wild by the thousands each year. Most collected plants die, either at the store or shortly after purchase. To avoid depleting wild populations, buy plants only from reputable nurseries that propagate their own plants by seed, division, or tissue culture.
These carnivorous curiosities are difficult to cultivate under garden conditions. Outdoors, they need full sun and constantly moist, peaty soil with few nutrients. They should not be fertilized, and the traps should never be fed with meat or anything else. Indoors, they need bright light, moist soil, and very high humidity; a terrarium containing finely milled sphagnum peat moss should do the trick. Plants go semidormant in winter.