Carnivorous Plants Website
Carnivorous Plants in the Wilderness
by Makoto Honda


Carnivorous Plants Story
Picture book for a young audience / Kindle Edition

Makoto Honda

Copyright (c) 2013-2017 by Makoto Honda. All Rights Reserved.



GENUS Pinguicula

The butterworts use a flypaper, or adhesive, trap to capture small insect prey. The surface of a leaf is covered with short hairs each tipped with a sticky glue. The name "butterwort" comes from the oily feel of the leaf surface when touched. There are about 100 species of butterworts worldwide. Many species are found in Central America, Mexico, and Europe. Several species grow in North America.


A yellow-flowered butterwort (Pinguicula lutea) in Florida, in early March (left) and purple flowers of Pinguicula caerulea (right) in Florida, in May.


Typically, the U.S. species are found on moist, sandy soil, and in marshy savanna, often sharing the habitat with other carnivorous plants such as sundews and pitcher plants. Flat, succulent leaves of butterworts form a rosette. The size of the rosette varies from 2 cm to 15 cm in diameter, depending on the species.


A purple flower of Pinguicula ionantha in Florida, in early March.


A white flower of Pinguicula ionantha.


A blooming butterwort (Pinguicula caerulea) in Florida, in early May.


When an insect lands or crawls on a butterwort's leaf, it becomes mired down in a sticky mucilage. The mucilage is produced by the glands at the tip of short hairs lining the leaf surface. Unlike sundew tentacles, these short hairs of the butterworts do not show any movement. Butterworts are usually capable of capturing only small insects such as gnats and tiny ants.


A blooming butterwort (Pinguicula pumila) in Florida, in early March. Typically, this tiny butterwort only grows to 2 cm in rosette diameter. It is difficult to locate the plant without flowers. Note that there are a variety of flower colors in this species.


Delicate flowers of Pinguicula pumila in Florida, in early March.


Blooming butterworts (Pinguicula macroceras) in northern California, in April.


Prey being digested on the leaf of Pinguicula macroceras, in northern California, in May.


A gnat struggling to free itself on the sticky leaf of a butterwort (Pinguicula macroceras).


A gnat captured on the sticky leaf of a butterwort (Pinguicula macroceras).



The leaf of butterworts is covered with hundreds of tiny hairs tipped with a sticky glue. These are stalked glands, responsible for prey capture. Scattered on the leaf surface is another kind of gland, called sessile glands (no stalks), These glands are responsible for secreting digestive juices upon prey capture. 


A section of a butterwort plant leaf (left) and a closeup view of glands (right). Each gland consists of 16 glandular cells.


Stalked glands of a butterwort, Pinguicula macroceras. A spherical droplet of a glue forms at the tip of the gland. Note some tiny blobs on the leaf surface. They are sessile (stalkless) glands, responsible for secreting digestive juices upon prey capture.


Dewy leaves of a European butterwort (Pinguicula lusitanica).


There is another kind of gland which is almost buried on the leaf surface. When a nutritious object, such as an insect, or a tiny piece of meat, is placed on the leaf surface, these glands produce digestive fluids. Often, the prey is completely covered with the fluids and digested. Sometimes, the edge of a leaf curls up slowly if the prey is caught near the leaf margin. This helps hold the digestive fluids in place around the prey. As the digestion progresses, the nutrients from the dissolved insect are quickly taken into the leaf and used for various growth activities of the plant.





Carnivorous Plants Story - Copyrighted Material
Copyright (c) 2013 by Makoto Honda. All Rights Reserved.

For a young audience, click here for
"Eaten Alive by Carnivorous Plants" by Kathleen J. Honda & Makoto Honda