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

Q: How do I sexually propagate my Venus flytrap?

A: I assume you have let your plant flower, and are now wondering what the next step is.

Dionaea

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Dionaea
It is probably obvious that you can encourage your flower to produce seed, and then you can use the seed to make more plants! But I warn you: propagating Venus flytraps by seed is not a satisfying tactic unless you are very skilled with carnivorous plants. Under normal growing conditions, Venus flytraps take a couple of years to mature. For the first few years they are amazingly tiny.

On the other hand, if you do have a few years, seed propagation is the fastest way (other than by tissue culture) to create a large number of plants. Furthermore, breeding plants might result in interesting mutations or varieties. But just be prepared to wait.

To proceed with the mechanics of pollination, you must become familiar with the organs of a Venus flytrap flower. Look at the images to the right. Those are typical Venus flytrap flowers. Quite unimpressive. Click them to get a closer look. See the big white petals? Yes, unimpressive. See the yellow clumps on the little greenish-white filaments? Unimpressive.

Some key terminology:
The unimpressive yellow clumps: pollen.
The tiresome knobs the pollen sits on: anthers.
The tedious little white filaments that hold the anthers: filaments (duh!)
The boring greenish-yellow lumpish barrel-shaped structure at the center of the flower: pistil.
The uninteresting top surface of the pistil: stigma.

Was it really risking your plant's life so you could see this? I suppose so.

Now gather round, children, it's time for sex! Remove pollen (the plant's analogue to sperm) from the erect, long filament and anther (the plant's analogue to....oh never mind). You can do this with a toothpick. Transfer it onto the stigma by rubbing the pollen-covered toothpick tip on the stigma. You should be able to see that pollen was transferred, although you might need a hand lens to see it.

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Mutant 'Wacky Traps'

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Seedings

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Seedings, even closer
That was fun. If you are so inclined, roll over and take a nap.

Now wait. Over the next few weeks, each flower will crinkle, shrivel, and blacken. When the entire flower and the little stalk (the pedicel) it is on completely blackens, inspect it very closely. If you were unsuccessful, all you will have for your efforts are little crispy shreds of plant tissue. But if you were successful, you will find 20-30 black, glossy seeds each less than 1mm in size. Whoo hoo!

It is a widely held and probably correct belief that you will get more seeds for your efforts, and the resulting seedlings will be more vigorous, if you cross-pollinate flowers instead of self-pollinate them. Cross-pollination means you take the pollen from one plant and put it on the stigmatic surface of another. Self pollination is when you pollinate a flower with its own pollen.

I should add that if you pollinate a flower with pollen from a different flower, but the pollen donor flower is from the same plant as the pollen-recipient flower, from a genetic standpoint this is still self-pollination. The same even holds if you try to cross-pollinate two plants that are genetically identical---it is still self-pollination. Sometimes, even if you don't pollinate a flower, it will produce seed. This is either because the flowers self-pollinate as they shrivel up, or perhaps your plant was visited by a pollinating insect that you didn't notice (especially likely if you grow your plants outside).

Stratify the seeds for about 3-4 weeks in cold, wet conditions, then sow them on moist peat moss. From here on, give your seed pot the same conditions you would a happy Venus flytrap. If you are lucky, in a few weeks to a few months you will see little tiny seedlings emerge. They are so cute!

Page citations: Personal observation.

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Revised: January 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005