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220 × 145 × 20 mm
240 pages
110 illustrations, 100 in colour
10 Jun 2019

Carnivorous Plants Dan Torre

Carnivorous plants are a unique group, possessing modified leaves to trap, kill and consume small creatures. As a result they are often depicted as killers in films and literature, yet others regard them as exotic and beautiful specimens to collect and display.

In this abundantly illustrated and highly entertaining book, Dan Torre describes the evolution, structure and scientific background of carnivorous plants. He also shows how they have inspired our imagination, examining their cultural and social history, and how they have been represented in art, literature, cinema, animation and popular culture.

This fascinating history will appeal to the wide audience interested in these singular, arresting, beautiful yet deadly plants.

‘Dozens of photographs in Carnivorous Plants highlight the delicate beauty and adaptivity of these vegetable wonders, and a list of resources at the end includes carnivorous plant conservation organizations, blogs, and live-plant suppliers. Most readers of Torre’s appreciative little book, no doubt, will cast aside fears and fantasy and, perhaps, even invite a few of the little meat eaters into their homes and gardens.’ — Natural History Magazine

‘there’s no denying that carnivorous plants – diminutive as they tend to be – have made great subjects for horror stories . . . Their appearances in films, television series and books as monster plants that munch on humans as compulsively as if they were chocolates is one of the themes of a new book, Carnivorous Plants . . . Torre takes a broader approach to these green predators than the authors of most other books on the subject. He looks at how they have inspired artists, clothing designers and industrial designers . . . Torre also explores all the ways in which meat-eating plants feed our imagination. He also lays bare how the behaviour of real-life carnivorous plants is often so outlandish you couldn’t make it up.’ — The Age, Australia

‘In this enjoyable and informative book, Torre provides a broad introduction to what makes a plant "carnivorous," taking a modern approach to the topic that not only includes the classic insect capture by the infamous Venus flytrap (Dionaea) and sundew (Drosera), but also presents a newer understanding of mineral nutrient acquisition from bacterial decomposition, and even the symbiotic use of mammalian fecal matter by the tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes). The work stands out for its broad historical perspective, providing numerous illustrations reproduced from early works. The second half of the book is unique for its broad coverage of carnivorous plants as portrayed in various media, including science fiction novels, film, and modern art. The author closes with a brief chapter on the history of cultivation and the development of hybrids and other interesting mutations, also covering potential uses of carnivorous plants for health and engineering, their native habitats, and global efforts to protect wild populations. The science is accurate and is supported by adequate references that do not overwhelm the reader, making this an especially accessible work on a truly fascinating group of plants. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘We’re not inclined to think of plants deriving nourishment from "meat" and yet there are currently more than 700 recognised species of carnivorous plants. This book features exquisite images of many of them, along with the author’s entertaining and comprehensive information on their evolution, structure, scientific background, and social and cultural history.’ — Gardening Australia Magazine

‘The story telling is exemplary, and complex concepts are explained simply and without fuss. The combination of factual detail and entertaining cultural references works well for me. Dan Torre takes you from Ed Wood to Pokémon, from surrealistic art to synergistic relationships between bats and plants, all without missing a beat. This is one of those books that takes an already fascinating topic – animal-eating plants – and makes it even more exciting, more weird and endlessly fascinating.’ — Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria, Australia

‘It is rare to find a book that can reveal new information or provide a significantly different perspective to a topic that the reader thinks they are familiar. . . The author, in bringing up topics unfamiliar to me, inspired me to investigate topics more fully, revealing whole worlds of which I was not aware. The sign of a good non-fiction book is to provide information that the reader does not know, and allow a deeper understanding of a given topic. Carnivorous Plants by Dan Torre is one of the few books that provides sound information and interweaves various fields of knowledge that would not normally come together creating a body of work that is comprehensive. The style is easily accessible and ultimately readable and entertaining.’ — Associate Professor Randall W. Robinson, Victoria University Melbourne

Carnivorous Plants is a highly readable, informative, and entertaining natural history of carnivorous plants’ — Botany One

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Dan Torre is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Design at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. He is an avid grower and collector of cacti, and author of Cactus (Reaktion, 2017).


1 The Natural History of Carnivorous Plants
2 More than Just a Meal
3 A Remarkable Discovery
4 Attack of the Killer Plants
5 Magnificent Carnivores
6 Collecting, Growing and Conserving Carnivorous Plants

Timeline of Carnivorous Plants
Further Reading
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements