A marauding Venus flytrap at large in your living room?

By , Special to The Christian Science monitor

Darwin once praised carnivorous plants as "the most wonderful plants in the world." Others, however, have been less kind. Even so, while they are capable of locomotion -- that is, opening and shutting their leaves when irritated -- these plants neither haunt kitchens nor hang around a fast-food outlet in search of grub.

Consequently, why not raise a few once you've tired of cultivating conventional houseplants?

Nature presents us with three types:

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* The almost extinct pitcher plants -- darlingtonia, nepenthes, and sarracenia -- which drown their prey in a liquid that fills up their pitcherlike leaves. These are the most difficult to grow in the average home.

* The most abundant and easiest to grow -- sundews (Drosera)m and butterworts (Pinguicula)m -- trap their victims in the greasy secretions of their modified leaves.

* The prototype for sci-fi monsters -- Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipularia)m and bladderworts (Ulticularia)m -- imprison their quarry with movable parts. These are the most fascinating.

Unfortunately, without exception, carnivorous plants (sometimes called insectivorous plants) are not enamored with indoor life. They prefer to slumber in moisture-laden bogs or in other such acid, humid, draft-free, warm quarters. Thus, if you want to befriend plant-world carnivores, provide them with maximum moisture environments, such as party open terrariums.

Plant them in peat moss that has been laced with sand and keep the potting mix constantly moist. If your tap water is fluoridated or very hard, use distilled or rainwater.

Light should be bright but either indirect or fluorescent.

Food should consist of a couple of pellets of roast beef once a season. Or instead, place a piece of fruit inside the terrarium and keep the lid open till the fruit flies arrive. Then shut the container.Three or four insects per plant per year is the maximum a carnivore can digest. Conventional plant food or fatty chopped meat is unwelcome.

Those of you who lack a terrarium but have access to a sweet-water aquarium should opt for bladderworts and grow them either floating or submerged.

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