MadSci Network: Botany

Re: Is there an easily obtainable acid that is close to Venus Flytraps PH etc.?

Date: Thu Mar 12 15:18:33 1998
Posted By: Justin Remais, Student and Engineer Asst., University of California at Berkeley/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Area of science: Botany
ID: 887840178.Bt

Hello Paul:

Dionaea muscipula is scientific name for the famous Venus Fly Trap. Dionaea 
muscipula is the only species in the genus. This rare plant is found in 
southern North Carolina. Unfortunately, its endangered status does not stop 
collectors from risking high fines and field collecting them. Insect 
capture is performed by attracting the insects with nectar to bi-lobed 
leaves, which snap shut upon the prey. Usually these plants are colored 
green, with splashes of red on the inner surfaces of the traps. Several 
varieties have beautiful combinations of red, yellow, and green patterns on 
their traps. Variations are not restricted to color types; some plants are 
smaller than usual, others have shorter than normal "teeth." 

This plant can be cultivated provided its basic requirements for growing 
are met. See the Carnivorous Plant FAQ for more information:

Dionaea have a digestive gland that secretes a variety of acids, enzymes 
and other digestive compounds. In addition, bacteria that are present in 
the digestive compartments of the plants aid in the breakdown of the prey. 
Being such a complex chemical and biological environment, it will be very 
difficult to mimic experimentally in a beaker.

Early studies of Darwin (1875) and Balfour (1875) showed that the secreted 
fluid in Dionaea to contain formic, butyric and propionic acids. The fluid 
present in stimulated Dionaea traps is typically pH 2.5-3.5.

Commercially available acids, such as HCl, can be diluted to a similar pH, 
but be sure that your scientific conclusions take into account the many 
differences between your experimental environment, and the digestive 
environment of the Dionaea.

Good Luck Paul!

Justin V. Remais
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Accelerator and Fusion Research Division

Excellent Reference:
Juniper, Robins and Joel. "The Carnivorous Plants." Academic Press, 1989.

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