Four of the five types of carnivorous plants found in North America can be found in the Big Thicket, including pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts. The most well-known carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap, is not found here; in the wild, these plants are found only in North and South Carolina.
Pale Pitcher Plant
Pitcher plants are passive plants that do not use movement in the capture and digestion of insects. Pitcher plants capture insects by luring them to the mouth of the trap with color, nectar, and/or scent. After an insect lands on the lip of the flower and begins to enter the mouth, it comes to a waxy inner surface that causes it to slide down the funnel. Downward pointing hairs lining the lower portion impede the insect's ability to climb back out. The bottom of the pitcher is filled with a fluid that drowns them, and then because it contains digestive enzymes, decomposes the proteins and soft body parts so that it can be absorbed into the plant for nutrition. Only the insect’s exoskeleton remains.
Drosera capillaris and brevifolia
The pink and dwarf sundews found in Big Thicket are small perennial herbs that have tentacle stalks on their leaves, with a mucilaginous secretory gland at the tip of each stalk. The gland secretes droplets of fluid which gives the plant its glistening, dew-drop appearance. Insects, upon being attracted to the plant through the nectar-like appearance and odor of the secretions, become stuck to the mucilage. Once the plant feels the insect struggling, it slowly encloses the insect in the array of tentacles. In a matter of minutes, the sundew begins to secrete digestive enzymes and acids that start to dissolve the body of the victim. A series of glands then absorb the nutritious liquified insect.
Utricularia gibba, inflata, juncea, radiata, and subulata
The bladderworts are the biggest genus of carnivorous plants with over 220 species worldwide. Big Thicket researchers have found five species to-date in the preserve. True free-floating bladderworts are annual plants that lack roots and leaves but have flowers on erect stems above the water. The entire floating plant is only about eight inches tall. Flowers emerge above the surface and are yellowish with 3-lobes and a spur underneath. Underwater the leaf branches or petioles are fleshy and inflated with air which allows them to float.
There are approximately 80 species of butterworts worldwide with nine occurring in the United States and only one so far having been found in the Big Thicket. Butterworts are a genus of carnivorous plants that use sticky, glandular leaves to lure, trap, and digest insects.
Park rangers lead free guided tours of the carnivorous plants on the Pitcher Plant Trail. The 1-mile, 1-hour walk takes participants through a pine savannah into the pitcher plant bog. Learn about and look for Big Thicket's carnivorous plants along the way! Check our calendar of events for dates and times.
See Carnivorous Plants in the Park
Last updated: May 2, 2022