Kids can watch plants eat BUGS!

Kids can watch plants eat BUGS!
The inside of the carnivorous pitcher plant! Those are bugs!

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - If you are looking for something really different for your curious kid this weekend, consider the Carnivorous Carnival at UNC Charlotte’s Botanical Gardens.

Dr. Jeff Gillman is the director of the Botanical Gardens.

“We’ll have several carnivorous plants native to North Carolina. Saturday kids will get to see the well-known Venus flytrap, as well as the pitcher plant, and the sundew,” Gillman told me.

Many people don’t know the Venus flytrap is native only to North Carolina. It can be found in the seventy or so miles around Wilmington. But don’t even think about removing one if you discover a flytrap on the coast.

“Legally you can not remove a Venus flytrap from its native habitat, but we will have them for sale,” Gillman said of Saturday’s event.

He told me the Venus flytrap gets a lot of attention, but the pitcher plant is equally fascinating.

“One of the really fun things we’re going to do Saturday is cut open a pitcher plant. An entomologist will help us look inside and determine all the different bugs the plant has eaten over the course of the season!"

Dr. Gillman will show kids the sundew plant. It has a sheen on its leaves that looks like morning dew. It is actually very sticky and once a bug lands on the plant, let’s just say, that bug is lunch!

“That sticky substance contains digestive enzymes, so the moment the insect lands, the digestive process begins," Gillman explained.

As a plant enthusiast, I had to ask Dr. Gillman how these meat-eating plants evolved.

“Plants in bogs were having a hard time getting nutrients, especially nitrogen, which is essential to a survival. They had to evolve to catch insects for their nitrogen. Basically their fertilizer. In fact, if you take a carnivorous plant home and fertilize them, they don’t like! They like to get their nutrients through their leaves,” he explained.

So why are bugs attracted to a plant that will eat them?

“The Venus fly trap, for example, has a nectar inside its flowers, it’s the fragrance that attracts pollinators. The flowers are high above the trap. If the flowers were close to the leaves, the traps, the plant would end up eating all of its pollinators."

It’s not just flies and gnats these plants eat.

“There is a variety of the Venus flytrap that is called the B-52. We’ve had a B-52 eat a lizard!”

Saturday kids will see these carnivorous plants don’t eat the entire bug!

“It takes several days to a week to completely digest the bug, and it is not the entire insect. As we’ll show kids tomorrow, the exoskeleton of the bug is left inside the plant," Dr. Gillman told me.

Saturday’s event starts at 11 a.m. through 1 p.m. There is a five dollar charge for kids, adults get in free.

This is a hands-on carnival. There will be a plant feeding, dissection of the pitcher plant and lots more.

They will also be selling carnivorous plants. Prices start at ten dollars.

The UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens are located at 9090 Carver Road in Charlotte, on the UNC Charlotte campus.

You can RSVP to the event on their Facebook page.

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