Out of the more than 600 species of carnivorous plants, the Venus flytrap is one of the most iconic. The arthropod assassins are known to dine on insects to supplement the few nutrients they get from their soil. While other carnivorous plants can be found worldwide, the vulnerable Venus flytraps are restricted to a small patch of subtropical wetlands in the U.S. Carolinas.
Researchers have been examining some parts of the plants for years, but other traits have gone unexplored.
"Basically, almost all that research is focused purely on the snap traps," says Clyde Sorenson, an entomology professor at North Carolina State University. "As charismatic as the plant is, nobody ever knew who pollinated it."
Or, at least, no one knew the plant's pollinators until now. Along with his colleagues at NC State, Sorenson is a co-author of a paper digging into what insects pollinate Venus flytraps in their native habitat. The researchers found that out of the scores of insects and spiders that become flytrap meals, only three species are common at the flowers and carry lots of flytrap pollen.