Meat-eating plants are not just science fiction

Carnivorous plant

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When you hear the term “carnivorous plant,” your first thought might be the movie “Little Shop of Horrors.”

John Twomey, Secretary for the New England Carnivorous Plant Society, gets a lot of questions about just how hungry the plants are and what they eat. The images tied to the iconic phrase, “Feed Me Seymore,” are far from the truth.

“Will it eat my finger or snap it off?” Twomey said, referring to a common query. “And of course they won’t.”

Twomey said that while some of these unique plants can grow big enough in other parts of the world to consume rodents, bats and frogs, the varieties around here survive on insects.

Believe it or not, some of these carnivores could be in a wooded area near you.

“They actually do exist,” Twomey said. “And there are 14 different species that grow wild here in the state of Rhode Island.”

NECPS formed about 13 years ago as a small group dedicated to learning more about how to properly take care of everything from the popular Venus Fly Trap to the lesser known Drosera Ordensis.

Twomey, a retired East Providence police officer who joined NECPS seven years ago, said the group now has hundreds of members who are fascinated by protein consuming vegetation and dedicated to helping them.

“Conservation and education,” he said. “We want to educate people about the plants and try to keep them thriving in their environment.”

In Rhode Island, the best spot to see them in the wild is Great Swamp in South County.

While Fly Traps have hinged, mouth-like leaves, various Pitcher Plants hold a digestive fluid in leafy containers where prey fall, drown and are consumed.

Many varieties draw in their food with scented, gooey fluid that traps the creatures.

“I got into this because it was interesting,” Twomey said. “I think most of us in the group are like that.”

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