NC’s iconic bug-eating plant is even smarter than scientists originally thought

The UNC-Charlotte’s McMillan Greenhouse held it’s second annual celebration of carnivorous plants on Saturday morning. The event included fun activities ranging from face painting to Venus fly trap feeding. The day is aimed at educating young kids on carnivorous plants through a hands on and interactive way Alex Kormann The Charlotte Observer
North Carolina’s iconic bug-eating plant – the Venus flytrap – knows which bugs not to eat in order to be pollinated, according to a Feb. 8 story in National Geographic.

Researchers have for the first time discovered which insects pollinate the rare plants “and discovered that the flytraps don’t dine on these pollinator species,” according to the story, which cites a report issued by NC State.

“Everybody’s heard of Venus flytraps, but nobody knew what pollinated them – so we decided to find out,” said a statement from Clyde Sorenson, co-author of a paper describing the research.

The rare plants are botanical curiosity that are found only in boggy habitats near Wilmington, and they are considered an at-risk species, threatened by encroaching development. They are also illegally poached and sold as pets in larger markets.

So which bugs are spared the plant’s digestive system? Researcher Elsa Youngsteadt opened more than 200 flytrap stomachs to find the insect remnants dissolving inside.

Three bugs never showed up, despite frequently visiting Venus flytraps: A green sweat bee, a checkered beetle and the notch-tipped flower longhorn beetle.

How the plants are smart enough to know what not to eat remains a mystery, but research is ongoing.

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