As a young boy, the Home Depot Garden Center was my happy place. My mom was a hobby gardener, so I often accompanied her on shopping sprees. But while she was surveying fertilizers and roses, my eyes were directed elsewhere: Yes, at the bags of soil, which I breathlessly slapped, but also at the Venus flytraps living in small, plastic containers.
While I’d yet to fully understand the scope of our war with plants and animals — i.e., deforestation and man’s razing of the kingdom Plantae — I was vaguely aware of the dynamic. I knew that, generally speaking, if a human, bug or beast were up against a shrub in a battle to the death, roots and leaves wouldn’t triumph over teeth, fangs, claws or hands. In other words, I was aware that bushes, flowers and trees were mostly defenseless, unarmed organisms in a highly weaponized world.
But Venus flytraps are different. They’re outfitted with large, red-mouthed jaws and can fight back against the caterpillars and ladybugs that chew on their leafy brethren. If you dare thrust your own finger into one of their openings, they won’t hesitate to close on you, either.
As a kid, I was cognizant of this fearlessness and spunk, which is why I often convinced my mom to let me bring a Venus flytrap home from our cherished trips to the Garden Center.
Twenty years later, I’d be lying if I said I thought about Venus flytraps much. Like many of my childhood passions, they’ve been pushed to the outskirts of my mind by work and responsibilities — that is, until recently, when I stumbled upon a species of YouTubers that publish content about Venus flytraps for all of the internet to enjoy. Their videos range from informational to action-packed, and they bring me back to the days of yore, when a much smaller me ogled at Venus flytraps with excitement in my eyes and pride streaming through my veins.
In their most-watched video, YouTuber Botanical Chaos, who has more than 43,000 subscribers, shows spectators how to re-pot a “garbage” Venus flytrap — the same ones sold in shoddy plastic containers at Home Depot — and accuses the package of displaying instructions that will surely kill the plant (a possible scheme to force novice gardeners to buy more).
Below the Botanical Chaos video, an appreciative viewer, reminiscent of my younger self, comments, “I had one of those things when I was nine, and it died, and I was so sad, and my dad refused to get me a new one because he said it was my fault for being ‘irresponsible.’ Thank you for giving me hope to raise a plant again.”
On the more dramatic end of the spectrum, YouTuber Carnivorous Corner, who has over 99,000 subscribers, posts closeup footage of Venus flytraps eating all sorts of insects, from worms to flies to crickets. Beneath their most recent video, “Spoon-Feeding Worms to a Venus Flytrap,” an amazed lurker writes, “That’s really disgusting, bro, but really good.”
Back on the educational side of things, lesser-known YouTubers like Predatory Plants and Venus Flytrap World have released a wide array of videos to teach onlookers everything they need to know about caring for these very special plants.
Besides being a mighty symbol of the plant kingdom’s tenaciousness, the Venus flytrap has a broader appeal. You might think that men like me are attracted to its ferocity and ability to eat bugs — that these traits somehow make it a “manlier” choice than the roses my mom used to buy. But Venus flytraps are loved by people of all genders because when we’re young, we recognize them as half plants, half pets, similar to the living, breathing, flytrap-inspired Piranha Plants scattered throughout the Mario franchise. Yeah, we know them as plants that can fight back, but we also know them as organisms that can quickly respond to our loving touch. Charles Darwin said it best when he labeled them “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.”
It may seem like a trivial community to some. If you were never a child infatuated with Venus flytraps, you might think, “Who cares? It’s just a plant.” But the reality is that plants are essential to all life on Earth — they provide the air we breathe and the food we eat — and Venus flytraps are living reminders that they’re not afraid to bite back if we continue to disrespect them. As for these YouTubers, they’re brave missionaries spreading the word.