Carnivorous plant habitats vary widely, from acid bogs to alkaline pine barrens, from frigid streams of melting snow to steamy tropical rain forests. All carnivorous plants have one thing in common, though: extremely poor, almost sterile soil, where many plants would never survive, let alone thrive. Under ordinary circumstances, essential nutrients become available as healthy populations of bacteria in the soil decompose plant and animal material. But some habitats make it difficult for soil bacteria to do their job. For example, flooding prevents a healthy flow of oxygen into the soil, and some very waterlogged soils are referred to as "wet deserts."
What's a plant to do when it finds itself in a "wet desert"? Most species can't survive, but some botanical wonders—the carnivorous plants—have found ways to get the nutrients they need. They trap insects and dissolve them; the liquefied victims provide carnivorous plants with the vital nutrients that are missing from the soil—nutrients that power flower, seed, and offshoot production. For a carnivorous plant, roots merely draw in water and keep it anchored in place.