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Plants: Gardens: Bog Garden

Bug-eating plants

In the nearly sterile, acidic, low-oxygen environments called bogs, you'll encounter one of nature's most inspired adaptations: carnivorous plants. In these difficult environments, plants have adapted to lure, trap, and digest insects and other small animals in order to survive. Like other plants, they still use the sun's energy and the traditional photosynthesis process, and they produce flowers in the spring to insure pollination by the first insect visitors.


Any insects that come along after that are not so lucky. Carnivorous plants entice their victims with bright colors and scents like sweet nectar or the stench of animal carcasses, but then they use narcotic secretions and even "teeth" to draw the insects into a trap and snap shut on them. The insects are ensnared in a sticky web of hairs, sucked into a bladder of no return, or sent down a slippery tube to dissolve in a soup of digestive enzymes.


Why are animal-eating plants mostly restricted to bogs? Apparently their special adaptation comes at a high cost: in better soil, other plants take over. There are hundreds of carnivorous plant species, but these botanical wonders are threatened by the urban development that replaces wetland habitats, and by collectors who take the plants without considering the damage they're doing.


The Zoo's Bog Garden, located in the Monkey Trails and Forest Tales habitat, features Venus fly traps, pitcher plants, sun dews, and bladder worts. To provide these plants with their natural environment, our gardener has to keep this area swampy. The Bog Garden's soil is a mix of washed sand and sphagnum peet. It is kept moist with deionized water, filtered to get rid of the salts and minerals found in San Diego's water supply, and completely saturated every four days to mimic the rainy conditions the plants are used to. Take time to enjoy this unique garden and its carnivorous plants.