The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: What digestive acids do they make, and are they dangerous?

Dionaea
Dionaea muscipula

Nepenthes ventricosa
Nepenthes ventricosa
digestive glands
A: The trick with this answer is that carnivorous plants do not make "acids", at least in the sense of stick-your-finger-in-and-watch-it-corrode. The compounds that carnivorous plants make to digest food are quite mild. They are digestive enzymes which dissolve the protein in the prey. Weak enzymes.

The enzymes that have been detected in carnivorous plants include amylase, chitinase, esterase, lipase, peroxidase, phosphatase, protease, and ribonuclease. The enzymes responsible for digestion in Nepenthes have not really been isolated, but there are studies underway (as there have been for years) to understand them better. If you are really insane about trying to find out more, refer to the citations I have below. If you need me to look this information up for your school report, I haven't got the time. Go to the library and read Barthlott et al. (2007) for yourself. Page 42 should help.

Do not overlook the previous FAQ entry, which mentions how some carnivorous plants impress organisms like bacteria and much larger creatures to help perform the digestive tasks.


Page citations: Barthlott, W. et al. 2007; Juniper, B.E. et al. 1989; Parkes, D.M. 1980; Schnell, D.E., 2002a; Takahashi, K. et al. 2008; Thornhill, A.H. et al. 2008.

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Revised: January 2010
©Barry Rice, 2005