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

Q: Do you have any suggestions for my science experiment?

I have been the judge of several science fairs for grade school and high school, and among the various displays there is almost always an experiment on "do Venus flytraps grow better with or without food?" Another old favorite is, "Are crickets better than hamburger?" So if you try these for your science fair, you certainly will not get points for originality.

Your experiment will probably be a dismal failure, too. Why?

Venus flytraps are so hard to grow that you should not use them for your science experiment---in the end all your plants will be near death, and the comparison of bugs vs no-bugs will be irrelevant.

If you must perform such a clichéd experiment on carnivorous plants, use easier-to-grow plants like sundews (Drosera capensis, D. spatulata). You can buy these from the various nurseries on line. And even these plants are a little tricky to grow. Use the same horticultural conditions as Venus flytraps for best results. Even with sundews, it will take a long time (probably too long) before you are likely to see any effects from different kinds of food sources. Check out this time-line:

Time for your plants to recover from shipping and resume normal grow: 1 month
Time to feed your plants enough food to result in changes: 1 month
Time for your plant to show the enhanced (or deleterious) effects of your feeding: 2 months

Do you really have that much time? Are you willing to risk you science experiment on the assumption that you can successfully grow these plants? Remember, if these plants were easy to grow, I wouldn't be compelled to have this colossal FAQ on line!

On the other hand, if you are already a successful carnivorous plant grower and are thinking of using your plants in a science experiment, I'm sure you already have some ideas of things you might want to try, and are probably fully aware of the amount of time you will need. If you need a few rudimentary ideas to jump start your thinking, how about trying to address things such as, "what affects how quickly Venus flytraps close?" or "can Venus flytraps digest xxx" (where "xxx" is stuff like Tapioca or chewing gum, etc.).

Otherwise, let me very clear on this---do not ask me for suggestions on your science experiment. I do not know the many details of your budget, time restraints, materials constraints, laboratory skills, or equipment. You will have to devise your science experiment yourself. An experiment you devise yourself will be much better than one you pulled out of a book (or web site), that we judges have seen done over and over again.

P.S. Yes, I know this Venus flytrap FAQ entry is just like my other science project FAQ entry, but I answer this question so many times via e-mail my eyes have crossed irreparably...

Page citations: Personal observation.

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Revised: January 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005