The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: What are the evolutionary clades for carnivorous plants?

Utricularia dichotoma
Utricularia dichotoma
A: Evolution, it turns out, has been way more complicated that we originally thought. The old idea of the "tree of life" has been revealed as far too simplistic. Evolution is a very messy and complicated process. And if you think that some God was responsible for the development of life, I suggest you fire him/her/it/them and get a better landscaper!

As I mentioned in the previous FAQ page, there are different clades of carnivorous plants. You can read about them in wikipedia or other sites if you want to know about the detailed organization. Here is just a summary...

Take a breath... Now let us begin.

Clade #1: Poales in Monocots
This is the group familiar to botanists of old, and includes the grasses, orchids, lilies, etc. In the monocots, there is a clade called Poales--this is usually referred to as an Order, and in this Division another clade called Bromeliaceae--i.e., the Bromeliad family. In this family, we find the two carnivorous genera Brocchinia and Catopsis.

Clade #2: Alismatales in Monocots
This clade is also in the monocots, in the order called Alismatales. In this order is a family called Tofieldiaceae--the false asphodel family. In this family, we find the carnivorous genus Tofieldia, with one species currently thought to be carnivorous.

The monocot clade is sister to two other clades--Ceratophyllales (which is not of interest to us in the discussion) and the very important "eudicot" clade. We have to look inside the eudicot clade.

Clade #3: Oxalidales
A few clades into the eudicots, there is a big branch into the "superrosids" and the "superasterids". Dipping into the superrosids, after a few choices down the organizational flow-chart, you get to an order called the Oxalidales. In this order, you can find the family Cephalotaceae, which of course includes the carnivorous genus Cephalotus.

Clade #4: Caryophyllales
Now let's explore the superasterids. A few branches into this, we see an order called the Caryophyllales. Along with dozens of other families, this order includes the families Droseraceae (carnivorous genera: Aldrovanda, Dionaea, Drosera), Drosophyllaceae (carnivorous genus: Drosophyllum), Dioncophyllaceae (carnivorous genus: Triphyophyllum), and Nepenthaceae (carnivorous genus: Nepenthes).

Clade #5: Ericales
Sister to the Caryophyllales is a clade called the asterids. Digging a few layers into this we find an order called Ericales. This includes the families Roridulaceae (carnivorous genus: Roridula) and Sarraceniaceae (carnivorous genera: Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, and Sarracenia).

Clade #6: Lamiales
Sister to the Ericales is a clade which, if you dig deeply into, you find an order called the Lamiales. This order includes the families Byblidaceae (carnivorous genus: Byblis), Lentibulariaceae (carnivorous genera: Genlisea, Pinguicula, and Utricularia), Plantaginaceae (carnivorous genus: Philcoxia), and--if it interests you--Martyniaceae (possibly carnivorous genus: Ibicella).

Here are a few more clades, in case you think the included plants might be carnivorous.

Clade #7: Asterales
In clade #5 above, a few steps before you get to the Lamiales, you can take a side branch which will let you access the order Asterales. Herein you can find the family Stylidiaceae (possibly carnivorous genus: Stylidium).

Clade #8: Malpighiales
Sister to the Oxalidales clade is the order called Malpighiales. In this order, you can find the family Passifloraceae. A species in the included genus Passiflora has been accused of being carnivorous.

Page citations: APG 2016; Greuter, et al. 2000; Raven, et al. 1981; Rice, B.A. 2006a.

back forward


Revised: 2021
©Barry Rice, 2021