Traits, distribution and phylogenies of carnivorous plants – Darwin’s ‘most wonderful plants in the world’

Carnivorous plants are linked by shared functional traits that enable the capture, trapping, killing and digestion of animal prey. They assimilate nutrients from those prey and use them for growth and reproduction. Carnivory in plants has evolved independently on at least ten occasions, and carnivorous plants can be found on all continents except Antarctica. The widespread nature and convergent evolution of a single well-defined life history strategy makes carnivorous plants interesting model systems for understanding the evolution of common traits, distribution of life history strategies and costs / benefits of evolutionary trade-offs.


Since Charles Darwin’s seminal 1875 book Insectivorous Plants, progress has been made in identifying the extent of carnivory in the plant kingdom, and in understanding the mode and action, benefits, and geographic variation in carnivorous traits. Many key questions, however, remain. For example, why are some plants carnivorous, what constraints does being carnivorous place on plants, and do carnivorous plants occupy a restricted area of traitspace?


Synthesis of plant traits across carnivorous plant species is a potentially powerful approach for unifying carnivorous plant research, and for integrating carnivorous plants into existing understanding of non-carnivorous plant traits and trait syndromes. Carnivorous plants are, however, poorly represented. The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers in the fields of carnivorous plant ecology and biogeography, carnivorous plant evolution and systematics, and plant traits, to develop a framework for synthesising and analysing data on the traits of all 800 carnivorous plant species. We aim to determine controls and constraints over interspecific variation in carnivorous plants and in traits across space.



In-person participants


Prof. Stephen Brewer

University of Mississippi, USA

Dr Ulrike Bauer

Bristol University, UK

Dr Sydne Record

Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, USA

Dr Robert Naczi

New York Botanic Garden, USA

Dr Tanya Renner

Penn State, USA

Prof. Ulrike Muller

Fresno State, USA

Prof. Brian McGill

University of Maine, USA

Ellen Goddard

Loughborough University, UK

Ciara Sugrue (TBC)

Loughborough University, UK

Remote participants


Dr Adam Cross

Curtin University, Australia

Dr Andreas Fleischmann

Botanische Staatssammlung München, Germany

Dr Lubomir Adamec

Institute of Botany of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Prof. Bruno Cerabolini

The University of Milan, Italy

Dr Simon Pierce

The University of Milan, Italy



Prof. Aaron Ellison

Harvard University / Harvard Forest, USA

Dr. Jon Millett

Loughborough University, UK

Dr. Matt Fitzpatrick

University of Maryland, USA