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

Q: Can Venus flytraps digest human flesh?

A: OK, I admit it. This is not a "frequently asked question." But it is one that I am inspired to answer. But let me warn you, this is GROSS! You may wish to zip right on to the next FAQ entry to just avoid polluting your brain with the information below. By the way, my lovely wife is going to be absolutely mortified when I tell her I put this information on the web. She was completely horrified that I actually did these experiments.

First, let me supply a bit of background information. I managed to contract a really nasty case of athlete's foot from the mycological beasties squirming around on the mat at my karate dojo: a really vile case--the kind that just eats your feet off. After a couple of months of treatment, I finally managed to get the stuff under control, but it was touch and go for a while. (If you think this is gross information, read on---the gross-out factor is just beginning....).

Well, when the athlete's foot infestation was at its worst, bits (yea, even chunks) of skin were peeling off my feet like shingles from an old barn in a hurricane. Ever-enterprising, I figured, "Hey, why waste all these skin hunks?"

I thought about my Venus flytraps. (You can start squirming now.) Could they digest diseased human flesh? If so, this would mean that if a person were trapped by an adequately large (giant, special-effects-monster-movie size) Venus flytrap, he or she could be digested. I figured this would be unlikely because surely the skin would be able to resist the puny enzymes from the plant. But here was a chance to prove it.

Of course, what is the point of doing an experiment without documenting it? So I carefully selected four sizable chunks of skin (heh heh heh!) and scanned them on my flat-bed scanner (more squirming). Then, I fed them to four different Venus flytraps (#1: typical plant; #2: 'Justina Davis'; #3: 'Dentate Traps'; #4: 'Red Piranha'). Just in case the plants would not like the skin or would not go through the normal digestion process, I included small earwigs with the skin-chunk sacrifices for plants #2 and #3.

A quick recap summary. I fed DISEASED HUMAN TISSUE to my plants. Yep, not just regular human fragments, but DISEASED HUMAN FRAGMENTS.

After a week, the traps opened. I had predicted the skin chunks would be relatively inert and unaffected. After all, these were hard, crusty chunks of skin from the sole of my diseased feet. Surely the Venus flytraps would have no effect upon them.

Was I ever wrong! The skin chunks were almost completely digested. Worse, what was left no longer had much cohesion, but was gooey and slimy, like little boogers. Uck! Uck! Uck! And what is with the weird hue shift to bacon color?? Uck! Uck! Uck! Iä! Iä!

Experiment
Ick
I let the slimy bits dry out and scanned them too. You can click on the thumbnail image at the right if you want to see the results of my experiments on the four chunks. The "A" pictures are for before digestion, the "B" pictures are for after digestion.

So I guess that if you were to get caught by a sufficiently large Venus flytrap, your skin would easily be digested, and the plant would be able to proceed to your other internal tissues. Gross!

(Incidentally, preparing the image above for the web site was really a disgusting experience for me. I did not mind the "A" pictures, but scanning and adjusting the "B" pictures was definite gag-ville. I hope you enjoy them!)

Page citations: personal grotesque observation.

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Revised: January 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005