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Venus Fly Trap

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Dionaea muscipula is a carnivorous plant eating insects to collect the necessary animal proteins and other byproducts to sustain life. This plant has a very fast reaction time. As a insect, such as fly, lands on the plants leaves and touches the adaxial receptors, a chemical reaction occurs in the plant. The chemical reaction sets into motion the closing of the leaves in a very quick motion, constructing the insect from moving. The fly is then locked in the leaf, and can't move because of the dewy substance lining the inside. The bug is then digested.

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      17.07.2012 11:43
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      An interesting plant with some peculiar needs

      INTRODUCTION
       
      I consider myself to be fairly green fingered, but with Venus Fly Traps I'm definitely brown thumbed.  Over time, I've killed more VFTs than DDT killed Scottish Ospreys.  It takes about a year for me to forget how bad I am at sustaining them, so when I get the houseplant bug every Easter on a trip to a garden centre, I more often than not end up buying another.
       
      It's a shame I kill them off, they are a fascinating plant and listed as vulnerable too - their only natural native habitat is a few swamps in North Carolina, although there are some that have spread to a handful of swamps in Florida.  They are a carnivorous plant - they digest insects to get their nutrients as the soil they live in is nutrient poor so over time have evolved to feed in this way to ensure their survival.  They trap an insect inside two hinged leaves, which then secrete enzymes that "eat" the insect and sustain the plant.
       
      GROWING YOUR OWN
       
      To grow from seed, you need to get the conditions right first.  Don't be tempted to use the finest Jon Innes seedling compost, you will freak the plant out and it won't grow.  For the "soil", just use sphagnum moss, grit and sand, remember, it thrives in nutrient poor soil as it will be getting it's nutrients from the insects that it catches.  Place the seeds on the top of this mixture then keep moist.  For best results, try covering the pot with Clingfilm as this will increase the humidity levels - VFTs need a high humidity atmosphere.  The seedlings should be kept indoors on a warm sunny windowsill as the places in America where they grow naturally are quite warm.  For this reason, a good time of year to grow from seed in this way would be from late spring onwards.  The seeds should germinate within 3 weeks, then they can be uncovered and allowed to grow bigger.  In time, gently prick out the seedlings when they are big enough to handle and re-pot in the same sand, grit and moss mix.
       
      Perhaps most importantly, never use tap water to water the VFTs.  This is the main reason I have always killed them off.  They should only ever have rain water or distilled water to drink.  This makes them a slightly fussy plant to look after, but to be honest we are never short of rain water in the UK and it's not too difficult to leave a bucket outside to collect some.
       
      Another reason why these plants don't live long (when impatient plonkers like me get their hands on them) is that it's tempting to get a cocktail stick and rub the little hairs on the pads of the open leaves to make the trap close.  Don't do it!  When the trap closes, it uses a large amount of energy and if the plant hasn't trapped a juicy fly to feed on the eventually it will die.  Instead, let nature take the lead and the plant will catch the flies that annoyingly buzz in front of your tv screen for you.  If you don't have many flies or moths in your house, then you can feed the plant dead ones, you will just need to tickle the sensor hairs on the leaf pads to activate the trap.  When the plant has digested the insect, you may be left with some tiny bits of the insect that the plant wasn't able to digest - I spray these off with rain water in a bottle.  
       
      They can be put outside over the warmer months (I have recently refused to call the current time of year summer, too much rain and not enough sun) but won't survive a British winter so I bring mine indoors.  To recap, they need humidity, warmth, very poor soil and lots of light.
       
      PESTS AND DISEASES
       
      The good thing about VFTs and pests is that the plant eats them, so there's not much of a worry there!  Greenflies may be an issue as they are too small to trigger the trap, but apparently if you submerge the plant in water for two or three days this will sort that out and de-louse your plant of greenflies.  Due to the humid conditions that VFTs require, fungus can be an issue, but a sprayed solution (mixed with rain water of course!) of copper sulphate should sort this out.  If you have a VFT and it starts to throw up a flower spike, snip this off before it flowers as flowering will weaken the plant and it will most probably die after the flowers themselves die off.  
       
      VARIETIES
       
      The cheapest place I've found for seeds is a website called www.littleshopofhorrors.co.uk , which sells a seed kit for £2.50.  Other suppliers include Thompson and Morgan (11 seeds for £4.99) and Mandrake House Herbs (5 seeds for £2.99).  Actual plants from garden centres vary in price, but expect to pay at least £3 for a small plant with two or three trap heads on it.
       
      Commonly available varieties include: Green Dragon (the trap stays green even when exposed to bright light), Red Dragon (the trap is red coloured), Clumping Cultivar (forms a ground hugging rosette of tightly packed trap heads) and Sawtooth (these have small triangular jagged teeth as opposed to the classic long interlocking spikes that most people think of when they picture a VFT).
       
      SUMMARY
       
      These plants are fascinating to look at, they look like something from prehistoric times with their sharp pointy "teeth" and are a poke in the eye to the 'peace lily and rubber plant' brigade of conventional house plants.  Not only do you get an interesting plant to watch in action, but there's a bit of free pest control throw into the mix too.  However, due to their quite specific care requirements, I can't bring myself to award the full amount of stars as they're not the sort of plant that is pretty much bomb proof and can be left unloved for years - I know we get a lot of rain in summer with which to feed the VFTs, but we can have dry winters where rain water is hard to come by.  So, for it's fussiness, I would recommend a VFT to someone who is prepared to put a bit of effort into looking after it and award it four stars.  Thanks for reading.

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        05.02.2012 20:39
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        a more interesting type of plant, bit of a conversation starter

        I was given a venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) as a gift at christmas and I have to admit I thought it was extremely cool but at the same time I was kinda creeped out by it at first! Its tiny mouth bits (around half an inch to an inch in size) with scary looking "teeth" gave me the heebie jeebies, especially when I knocked one accidently and it snapped shut! But after having looked up some information about the plant online and haven gotton over my initial creeped-outness, I feel in love with this freaky looking creature.

        The plant itself at the moment has 6 mouth bits and looks like it is in the process of growing 2 more, which I am quite excited by :) I have heard these plants are quite hard to keep alive but its been over a month and it is still looking good, even with my notorious plant killing abilities.

        It is advised that venus fly traps need quite a lot of light (a minimum of 4 hours direct sunlight a day is ideal) so I have it sitting on the windowsill, more difficult to get the light it needs in the winter but the days are getting longer. It is also advised that you should water it with distilled or rain water as tap water has lots of dissolved salts in it and can be bad for it, luckily I live in Scotland where there is rain a plenty! It is also important to use soil that is nutrient poor as nutrient rich soil can damage the roots (apparently the plants evolved to be carnivorous because they lived in nutrient poor soil and needed to supplement their diets with nutrient rich flies!), I haven't re-potted my plant at all so haven't had to find decent soil for it yet.

        The plant catches flies and insects itself, when they crawl over the mouth parts they trigger them to shut by touching tiny hairs that are inside the mouth bit. It takes about a week for the plant to digest the insect and strangely enough if it doesn't like whatever it has caught, it will spit it out! At the end of the digestion process the mouth opens up and what is left is the exoskeleton of the insect, kind of ew but it only eats what it needs from them. These left over remains are also useful to the plant as they attract more insects to it.

        As tempting as it is, it is NOT advisable to poke the mouth bits so you can see the plant snap shut as it is not good for it. I have to admit I did it a few times before I read that you are not supposed to, oops. As yet I haven't seen it eat a fly which would be quite interesting to see, I may try and feed it a fly if I find one which you can do if you are careful, just to see what happens.

        All in all I am chuffed with this plant and even more chuffed that it is still alive. So if you are bored of your everyday kind of houseplants, then here's something with a bit more bite :)

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          18.11.2011 13:17

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          A wonderful plant to have as long as your are willing to put in the time and effort.

          Venus fly traps are a wonderfully exotic, widely avaliable house plant. They need watering once a week, and like orchids, are best watered with rain water. As their names suggest they need to "eat" flies. They are more than capable of catching their own, however there is a limited number of flies in the room they live in. It is therefore possible, and advisable to feed them flies yourself. Once you have your fly (either one that has dies of natural causes, or one you have killed) you will need to get a cocktail stick on which to spear the fly. Then use that to lightly brush the inside of the venus fly trap. This stimulates the hairs, and results in the fly trap starting to close. Remove the cocktail stick, leaving the fly inside and let the trap close around the fly. Some quick thinks not to do:
          Don't stimulate the trap to close if their is no food inside
          Don't feed it moths or flies with stings.
          Despite following this, I have always found it hard to keep mine alive for more than a couple of months.

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          12.06.2010 18:43
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          A fun and unusual plant

          We came across Venus fly traps in B&Q and decided to give it a try in spite of not having the best track record with them. This time we ignored the instructions and looked them up online. We learned a great deal more about their care and this one is doing well, although it looks nothing like the specimens shown at the Chelsea Garden show. They were really huge and looked almost a different type of plant. anyway here is my review on Venus Flytraps.

          The Good:
          They are quite fun to watch and my son was very curious about them.
          They do catch a few flies.
          They are really unique plants and make great conversation starters.

          The Bad:
          They are very easy to kill.
          They require rather more care then other plants.
          You actually feel sorry for the flies trapped inside and struggling for some time before death.

          The Ugly:
          Venus fly traps do not actually eat the flies, they suck the juices from them, and then the trap opens up again with the half digested remains of its last meal still on the trap. This serves as bait for the next fly, but is less than appealing on your kitchen window.

          Care: Venus Fly Traps do like direct sunlight, and as much of it as possible. If they have been kept indoors for a long time before purchase you will have to gradually reintroduce them to the sun. Start with a few hours a day and build up. you'll notice how much larger and healthier they look very soon as well as a bright red colour to the traps indicating health.
          Ideally they should only be watered with rain water. If you must use tap water, let it sit 24 hours first.
          You need to take them out in the morning for their sun and bring them in at night, forget on a chilly night and they will get quite ill. Forget on a cold night and the plant will die.
          Don't ever fertilise them, they originated in very poor soils and fertile soil kill them.
          You dont need to feed them, they will catch their own flies, but never ever feed meat.
          Don't touch or spring the traps yourself.

          A bit of general information:
          Venus fly traps are closely related to the waterwheel, the only other active hunter among plants and both evolved from sticky carnivorous plants. A third type of carnivorous plants are the pitcher plants.

          Contrary to popular belief, Venus fly traps are not tropical, but originated in the USA where it is native to a very small tract of bog-land in North and South Carolina.

          The trap is triggered by fine hairs which sense an insects movement.

          Venus fly traps do flower and can be grown from seed. It is recommended though to snip the flowers off unless you are trying to get seeds to allow all the energy to go to the traps. Most propagation is done my division in the spring. I have decided to allow mine to flower though as this means I can save the seeds in case mine does not survive our long dark winters. The flowers are not spectacular. They are small and white. The pods are really the remarkable feature on this plant, but of course the flower will make seeds.

          The plant enters a dormant state and may appear dead in the winter.

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            19.05.2009 11:33
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            Need specialist - or at least, knowledgeable care if plants are to be viable long-term

            From time to time, for some reason, there seems to be a minor 'craze' for carnivorous plants that hits British garden centres, and for a while there'll be a slowly-declining stand set up somewhere near the checkouts, featuring Sarracineas (upright pitcher plants), Nepenthes (hanging pitcher plants), Droseras (sudews), Pinguiculas (butterworts) and of course that hoary old insect eating chestnut, the venus fly trap.

            Some of these plants are doomed from the start. Nepenthes hybrids are spectacular and will look good for about, at most a month, before the pitchers dry up and the plant, in the dry atmosphere of someone's house, beings to invest in leafy growth only. If you're buying them on a 'cut flower' principle I suppose this could be all right. Sundews and pinguiculas can grow quite well in a household setting and are OK for specialists, but honestly, being small, and flat, they don't tend to make the most the spectacular or most eye-catching of specimens. Sarracineas - well you'll need to give 'em rainwater and keep them constantly moist, but they can look good and live a long time.

            But it's venus fly traps that everyone wants. Know four things about venus fly traps, and you might have some success.

            1. They need to be kept moist with rainwater - the stuff out of you tap, in many areas of the country, is absolutely no good. Given hard water with a high mineral content, the plant will begin to slowly weaken, and die.

            2. Do not attempt to feed them flies; once a trap shuts round a fly and begins digesting it, it will eventually darken and shrivel up, while this is quite natural, too many flies = fewer traps and an ultimately weakened plant + death.

            They are no use whatsoever as a practical fly control mechanism for your home; even if you lived in a house in a in bog in prime venus fly trap country, in South Carolina, or wherever, and were surrounded by hundreds of vigorously growing wild venus flytraps the entire time, I still doubt that their combined insect eating efforts would render you exempt from problems with flying insects. Translate this to one slowly declining fly trap on a kitchen windowsill in the south of England during a fly-plague in summer because the bin collections are down to once every two weeks in that area - no. Clearly that's not going to work, really.

            3. They need to be kept in a humid environment at all times, or they will, predictably, begin to slowly decline and die. To achieve this you can either stick them in a sealed, heated terrarium which is a ridiculous hassle if you only have one, or you could try what we call 'the biodome' approach.

            Basically upend some kind of clear glass vessel, large enough to cover both plant and its pot without touching the green parts / leaves, over the flytrap, keep the whole condensation-seeping set-up on a bright windowsill (out of direct midday / strong sunlight for preference) and hey presto! Warmth, light and humidity for the flytraps guaranteed. They seem to do quite well in this kind of environment. Depending on the size of the plants the clear glass vessel can be something as a simple as a large upside down jam-jar - this will not look especially attractive; sometimes you can find globular clear glass light-fittings that might work, and in garden centres at the moment they're selling glass bell jars for about £16 that could be worth trying - although these are disproportionately huge compared with the size of most venus fly-traps.

            Please bear in mind that if you intend to put wobbly glass arrangements high up on windowsills, and you have small children, you'll need to set things up so that the glass won't dislodge and fall on their heads. Perhaps go for something shatterproof as well, in that case - although that way it will of course be much heavier and potentially dangerous if it falls on anyone.

            4. If they're going to live a long time venus fly-traps need a period of dormancy over the winter. Apparently you should prune off most / all of the leaves and put the bulb-like plant base in the fridge for a few months to lie dormant, before repotting it in spring. If you're serious about this, you'll need far better instructions than these - do a search on Google to check the details. Without this period of dormancy, the plant will steadily weaken, and though it may survive several years, will ultimately fail.

            We never had the nerve to prune off all our venus flytrap's leaves and put it in the fridge; it survived in its biodome a few years then pegged it, possibly as a result, but then also one summer we were away and it dried up, so that can't have helped. They're devilish tricky to keep happy, these plants.

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              11.12.2008 17:36
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              Great plant for anyone that has the time and motivation to look after them

              The venus flytrap ( dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous small herb plant that will feed on flies and other household insects, (Much better than sticky fly traps and neon lights in your kitchen),

              They eat their pray by producing a liquid that attracts the flies and insects to it, when the insect lands on the plant and comes into contact with one or more hairs twice in quick succession this indicates to the plant that the insect is alive and the trap closes,

              The venus flytrap is found in poor environments such as wet savannahs and bogs and when in a hope should be kept on a plate of water, venus flytraps should be fed from the bottom and are very interesting plants to keep, almost like a pet.

              They have a reputation of being very difficult to grow and from personal experience I can confirm that they require a lot of care and attention making sure they always have water and the right size pot, They are slow growing but live in groups so will grow out of a small pot quite quick

              They should be placed on a windowsill, decking area or garden but needs to receive at least 2-4 hours of sunlight each day, the plant should be elevated on stones above a minimum of 2inches of water as stagnant water can be lethal to them.

              This is a great house plant if you can look after it and very interesting to watch, it dramatically reduces the number of flies in your house (living near farms this is great for me) and a lot easier to look after than having a pet,

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                13.10.2003 12:39
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                I really love the venus fly trap plant. When I was a kid, I had a venus fly trap plant but did not upkeep it correctly because of not really thinking that the venus fly trap needs extra attention than compared to other plants that I have raised. I did not keep the plant that very long. I think I gave it too much hamburger and liked to play with traps. Now, I once again own a venus fly trap plant and is trying very hard to keep my plant growing effectively. I do not water it from the top. I only may sprinkle a little water on the plant from the rain outside just to keep it from acquiring fungus. I usually use rain water to water my plant from the bottom in a plastic container pan where my plant sits directly in. I sit the plant out in the sun every chance that it is hot outside to make sure it gets adequate light. I also keep it in a window sill where it can also get light. I hear that plants like when people talk to them. I hear that the rhythm is good for them. I am going to buy my venus, the battery-operated dancing flowers that move when they hear music. I really want the best for my plant.

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                  29.07.2001 21:15
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                  If you are thinking of buying a Venus Fly Trap beware! You have to be prepared to lavish attention on it. If you don't give it exactly what it needs it will die. It won't adapt, or make do in the way some plants do. Treat it like any other ordinary houseplant and you will certainly murder it! Venus Fly Traps are a whole species of carnivorous plants. They come in many varieties. These plants are adapted to live where they can't get nutrients in the normal way from the soil. There are actually over 600 different kinds of meat eating plants and many of them can be grown as houseplants. So, how do you grow them? Well, it varies. Venus Fly Traps grow naturally in humid, wet, sunny and warm conditions and this is ideally what they need. (The bathroom springs to mind here and I did actually keep one alive for 18 months on the bathroom window sill.) The best way I found to create this mini environment is to plant your young VFT in a terrarium or bottle. (Cut the bottom off the bottle and you have the perfect solution. Or do you? Your plant demands freely circulating air so you might need to cut the top off the bottle too so that you've got a glass cylinder. If you plant comes in a tiny pot you might decide to leave it there for a while. Don't over water it or it will die because it can't get oxygen to its roots. When should you transplant you new plant into a bigger pot. The short answer is that you are probably better not doing so. This plant has a very small root system so it only needs a tiny pot. If you try to repot one of these you will probably kill your plant. If however, you have one that is getting big and looks healthy after a year or so you might want to risk it. The whole plant isn't likely to grow more than 13cms (5 inches)across anyway. Don't torment you little monster plant by poking the traps to make it shut. Each trap can only open and close about 6 times and t
                  he plant has to make new traps after this. If its putting energy into this it hasn't got energy to stay healthy, unless you are lucky. If you want to feed your VFT you will need to catch some flies and other insects. If you give it a bit of ordinary meat it will die. People often claim that you can feed these plants on minced beef or a bit of left over meat, but you can't. The meat will rot and kill the plant. The 'meal' you feed your plant shouldn't be bigger that about one third of the leaf trap or it will rot and kill the plant. Your plant will eat flies, slugs and even spiders. Don't feed it anything that will eat the plant though (caterpillars for example.) Growing these plants is very much a matter of trial and error and you will need to try out different environments and potting composts until you get exactly the right one for your particular plant. If your plant lives for 2 years and reaches around 13cms in width then you can consider yourself successful. This is a fascinating subject and propogating and growing VFT's is an art in itself. If you are interested in this subject there is lots of help available on the web. www2.labs.agilent.com/bot/cp_home/ Lots of botanical information collected together in this comprehensive database of Carnivorous plants. Quite technical but still interesting. www.sarracenia.com/faq.html Lots of information on carnivorous plants and a whole FAQ section on Venus Fly Traps and how to grow them. Everthing you need to know from buying a plant to repotting and feeding it insects.

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                    24.06.2001 22:13
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                    The Venus fly-trap (Dionea Muscipula) is definitely the most well know carnivorous plant that is commercially available in today’s world. HABITAT INFORMATION The Venus flytrap, like so many of the other carnivorous plants, is found mostly in or around peat bogs. Most carnivorous plants that grow in this type of habitat thus obtain plenty of sunlight, and lots of water. Because of the properties of the bogs however, there aren’t many nutrients in the soil, and so the plants evolved to obtain their nutrients from somewhere else. Their source of nutrients being the insects they catch. BACKGROUND INFORMATION The first plants were first introduced as houseplants in the Victorian times, and were classed as oddities. The plants were taken from their natural habitat, and not from cultivated stocks like we use today. Unfortunately, they didn’t have too great a lifespan in those times, as their growers didn’t understand the plants well enough. The traps consist of a leaf, which splits at the end to resemble an open book. On the tips of these 2 sections are spikes that, when the trap is closed, interlock preventing any escape. On the inside of each of the 2 sections are three hairs. For the trap mechanism to be triggered, either 1 hair must be stimulated once in succession, or 2 hairs must be stimulated within a certain amount of time. This prevents false alarms and the wasting of energy when the traps have nothing to digest. Also, once the trap has been triggered shut, the insect must move around and continuously stimulate the trigger hairs for a few hours, this is also a backup to make sure that they actually have a live insect. The plants attract the insects using a variety of methods. The first is that on the insides on the traps most pitchers that have been grown to a sufficient standard have a red colouring, this attracts the insects. The second is that the plant traps emit a faint scent that
                    lures the insects to their doom. The third, however, in my eyes is the most successful, as other carnivorous plants use this as well. The smells of the decaying insects that have already been caught lures the majority of insects to their doom. The insects are gradually digested and decomposed over a long period ranging around about a few weeks. Once they are digested the trap opens up and the hard, indigestible parts of the insect are blown away by the wind. GROWING INFORMATION Many people say how they once had a Venus flytrap but it died very quickly, others say they are very hard to keep because of experiences like the one above. This is a common misconception. The main reason for the plants to die so easily is that people don’t understand the conditions the plants grow in. The plants are carnivorous because they grow in nutrient poor soil. The most common way of the plant dying is the fact that each trap can only open and close around about 3 times because of the energy needed. So basically setting off the traps by poking fingers in them or small stones in time kills them. So NEVER TRIGGER THE TRAPS. The plants need the soil to be continuously wet, and should be placed on a bright windowsill that is quite warm, in a saucer of RAIN WATER (or distilled water) about 5ML deep. The re4ason to use rainwater is because the plants are extremely sensitive to the chemicals that are put in our tap water. Also, never put a soil fertiliser in the plant pots, as this’ll burn the roots that are too sensitive. A very weak foliage fertiliser may work, but the best bet is to stun a fly by hitting it with a fly swat and then put it onto a trap, this works for me! I hope this review helps you decide on whether to buy a Venus flytrap, and if you do, help you to grow them and have many years of happy growing :)

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                      09.05.2001 04:24
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                      In these days of chemical consciousness, this plant provides a very useful, no-global-warming, non-polluting answer to one of lifes annoyances - flies and other flying bugs. They are very efficient, and can be quite educational to watch - you can teach children something about nature, as well as keeping the air fly free without adding to pollution, or having to have fly papers hanging everywhere. Children are fascinated by the way they work, so you can provide an ongoing biology/science lesson in your home which also teaches your children an alternative to the solutions they'll be bombarded with in the media and on tv. For some reason, flies are attracted to the Venus Fly Trap, and once they land on its open "flower", it snaps shut and traps the fly. No cleaning up of fly corpses, no polluting the air with chemical sprays that almost kill you at the same time - in fact, the Venus Fly Trap is actually putting oxygen back into the air for us as well. Excellent little plant, isn't it? All you have to do is to remember to water it occasionally. I try to keep a couple in among my houseplants - for some reason potting soil and newly planted seeds always seem to attract lots of tiny flies. Well, they help keep my Venus Fly Traps well fed all year long!

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