10 Plants That Have Heterotrophic Mode of Nutrition

10 Plants That Have Heterotrophic Mode of Nutrition

Plants that have heterotrophic mode of nutrition are unable to manufacture their own nutrients from the ground. 

They either depend on holozoic, parasitic, or saprophytic mode of nutrition to feed.

These kinds of plants don’t require extra care, instead they rely on other plants to be productive.

Many people find it difficult to identify these plants. To make it easier for you, here are 10 heterotrophic plants.

1. Mistletoe 

plants with heterogenic nutrition


The scientific name of mistletoe is Viscum album. 

Mistletoes are pests to many plants. Sometimes, mistletoe affects the growth rate of host plants — causing branch deformation and decreasing the reproductive ability of the host plants.  

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The abnormal growth which Mistletoe causes the host plant is termed as “witches’ brooms.”

Mistletoe belongs to parasitic plants. Its mode of feeding is absolutely dependent on the host plant. 

Some Mistletoes feed on other species of Mistletoe. When a plant of the same species feeds on itself,  such mode of feeding is called parasitic nutrition.

Thus, some species of Mistletoes are hemiparasites. Hemiparasites simply means plant feeding on another plant (host plant). Also, hemiparasites means the presence of chlorophyll in a plant. Chlorophyll is a chemical substance that makes plants green.

Mistletoes require full sunlight to florish. The plant uses photosynthesis to get the required energy to withstand to feed on host plants.

Mistletoe are highly tolerant to weather conditions. You can cultivate the plant no matter where you live. Once plants can grow in that location, then Mistletoe can grow as well.

Overview Of Mistletoe 

Mistletoe feeds through the host plant by growing roots called haustorium. The roots penetrate the bark or tissue of the host tree to absorb nutrients. 

Before the process of absorbing nutrition, Mistletoe roots form a connection with the host plant tissues. The connection is a channel that water and nutrition pass through to Mistletoe. 

This mode of nutrition sometimes delays the growth rate of Mistletoe. Especially when the host plant is not cultivated under good soil — soil that has the complet components the plants require.

Generally, Mistletoe hardly gets dry. Mistletoe usually dries off when the host plant is suffering from mal-nutrition — unable to prove Mistletoe the required nutrition.

The easiest way to control mistletoe is completely remove it from the host plan cutlass or knife.

Butterflies, birds, and winds are what easily propagate Mistletoe.

Butterflies, birds, flies and winds are the agents that pollinate Mistletoe. 

It takes Mistletoe one week to develop roots that it will use to suck water and nutrition from the host plant after it sprouts out. After one week, if there are no such roots, Mistletoe will dry out.

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2. Desert Hyacinth 

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Desert hyacinth is an heterotrophic plant that doesn’t manufacture its own food. The plant mode of feeding is parasitic nutrition.

The scientific name of Desert hyacinth is Cistanche Tubulosa. 

Desert hyacinth is also known as Fox radish, and Ginseng of desert. 

Desert hyacinth is an ornament dense shrub when pruned but gets pyramid-shaped if not prune. 

Desert hyacinth is an eye-catching plant for landscape. Plant you can grow at the most attractive place of your house.

You can easily identify the plant with it branchless — pyramid-shaped with bright yellow flowers. The flowers blossom more during intensive heat.

Desert hyacinth isn’t green because there is no chlorophyll that supplies the pigment, which makes plants green.

The life cycle of Desert hyacinth is dependent on the host plant to survive — especially during the hot weather conditions.

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Growth Process Of Desert Hyacinth

The growth rate of Desert hyacinth depends on its capacity to absorb nutrition from the host plant.

Desert hyacinth uses its roots to suck nutrients and water from the host plant. Without proper inter roots connection of desert hyacinth and host plants, desert hyacinth will suffer mal-nutrition.

Desert hyacinth grows thin roots from an underground tuber root, which connects other plants irrespective of the distance.

It has one tap root that forms the tuber underground root where other thin roots extend to host plants.

Saltbush is among the host plants cultivated alongside Desert hyacinth. Saltbush  grows fibrous roots that are easily connected to desert hyacinth.

The host plants have to be drought-resistant with soft roots, otherwise desert hyacinth will find it difficult to absorb nutrients.

Most people cultivate desert hyacinth because it use to treat the under listed health conditions:

  • Low fertility
  • Decrease sex drive
  • Enhance brain functionality
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • constipation

You can cultivate Desert hyacinths to beautify your compound.

3. Sundew

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Sundew mode of nutrition is Holozoic nutrition — ingestive mode of nutrition (carnivorous plants). 

There are 194 species of Sundew plants — their mode of nutritions is the same. 

Sundew is the most common and the largest species of carnivorous plants. The capacity of the Sundew plant to trap insects is highly effective. 

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The scientific name of Sundew is Drosera. 

Sundew has chlorophyll that makes it green. The green leaves produce scents that attract insects.

Sundew needs more acidic soil than alkaline soil. It does well in a well-drained soil and under both full/partial sunlight.

You can grow Sundew indoor and outdoor. When growing indoors, ensure the soil is 1 inch moist and there is growing light to supply the required photosynthesis.

Sundew has a flypaper shape and folded inward — with open leaves to catch any prey.

How Does Sundew Trap Insects For Feeding?

Sundew is a carnivorous plant because of its mode of nutrition. The plant intake insects through the attractive open leaves.

The insects are what provide Sundew the amount of nitrogen required to remain healthy plants.

Sundew grows tiny stems with green leaves that have trap hairs. The trap hairs house sticky glands at the tip. 

The leaves hairs produce grands substance that catches insects.  When sunlight shines on the leaves, the hairs reflect back like a dew, which attracts insects during the day.

Also the hair produces nectars that get the insects attention. The nectar is found inside the leaves with a strong trap. The grands substance will not only catch any prey but will digest it as well.

The stem is folded with leaves that have sticky hairs. When an insect is stuck inside the fold stem, the leaves will prevent it from going out. Inside it has enzymes that digest any prey. 

Sundew kills any insect that gets trapped within 20 minutes, while it takes 6 – 10 days before it completely digests the insect. 

Sundews are pollinated by insects or undergo self pollination. Irrespective of where you grow sundews, it can survive because it requires both full/partial sunlight.

4. Indian Pipe 

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India pipe mode of nutrition is Saprophytic nutrition. It feeds on dead organisms.

The plant lacks chlorophyll, that’s why it isn’t green — some people do mistake it for parasitic nutrition because of the color.

Lack of chlorophyll substance makes the India pipe white and pinkish. It turns black and dries immediately when you pluck it.

The botanical name of india pipe is Monotropa uniflora. 

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It doesn’t require photosynthesis to grow. However, it blossoms in a dark place and thrives under full or partial sunlight.

India pipe is a translucent, ghostly white and pale pinkish-white due to lack of photosynthesis. 

It grows mainly in cold areas. It feeds on other plants’ dead leaves and other dead organisms that’s on the ground.

The height of Indian pipe flowering plants ranges from 10 – 40 cm. Each stem of India pipe has scale-like leaves and bell-shaped flowers.

Immediately the plants germinate, it grows downward to form bell-shaped flowers. 

The flower spreads as the place becomes cool and also spreads along side with the stem. 

The flower produces capsule fruit. The flower begins to straight out as the fruit matures. When the fruit finally matures, the flower is completely straight out with the stem.

The seed inside the fruit comes out through the little open at the tip of the capsule base. The India pipe stayed for a week after the seed died.

Most people refer to India pipe as a strange plant, and ghost plant or corpse plant because it’s not the conventional plant you see often. 

The plant grows out from a tangle mass of rootlets, decay leaves, and  other organisms in a cold place. It produces a cup-shaped or bell-shaped flower that has 4 – 5 petals at the tip of the stalk.

5. Coral Root

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Coral root mode of nutrition is both saprophytic and parasitic nutritions. 

Each species of Coral root operates a different mode of nutrition.

The plant obtains nutrients from dead organic objects and also sucks nutrients and water from other host plants.

The scientific name of Coral root is Corallorhiza. 

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Coral root is also known as Corallorhiza odontorhiza, Corallorhiza Trifida, Chicken Toe, Crawley Root, and Orchidée-Corail.

There are 11 species of Coral root plants. The species are from Orchids family. Also the species doesn’t need photosynthesis to germinate or florish.

The common species in the United States is Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata). It has white flower with purple at the tip.

They are often considered as leafless plants. They produce domart leaves when sprouting out and later turn to flowers. 

The leafless species of coral root are those that lack chlorophyll. These sets of coral root feed on dead organic objects. They produce a chemical substance called mycorrhizal fungi, which they use to derive nutrients.

The species that doesn’t produce chlorophyll have reddish rhizomes (underground stems). 

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Most Coral roots with chlorophyll usually appear to be  red, yellow, or white flowers, reddish, and yellow stalk.

The coral root plant gets its nutrition from sucking other plants and produces chlorophyll. The presence of chlorophyll makes it green.

The growth height of all Coral roots ranges from 10 – 30 cm. Also all Coral root plants begin to produce flowers from late summer to early autumn.

6. Pitcher Plant

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Pitcher plant mode of nutrition is holozoic. It feeds on both crawling and flying insects.

The plant grows beautiful and scented flowers that have sweet nectars. The flowers produce fragrance that attracts insects. 

They’re tropical plants that don’t require water to florish. The plant needs more sunlight than water. thrive under partial light but blossom under full sunlight.

Pitcher plants feed on insects to remain healthy and productive. 

How Does a Pitcher Plant Get Its Nitrogen? 

Pitcher plants are saprophytic nutrition that grows in poor nitrogen soil. Irrespective of the soil, the plant blossoms because it obtains nutrients and nitrogen from butterflies and insects.

They grow hanging vase-shaped cups that produce nectars that entice both flying and crawling insects. The nectars produce an intoxicated fragrance that invites insects.

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Once the prey gets inside the cup-shaped of the flowers, the bacteria inside kill the insects and digest it after some days. 

So, the digested insect provides the Pitcher plant the required nitrogen to florish. The pitcher cup-shaped is like a stomach where digestion takes place.

In addition, pitcher plants get nitrogen from leaves that fall inside the cup. The bacterials inside the cup help to digest the leaves, which provide pitcher plants the required nitrogen.

7. Bladderwort

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The botanical name of Bladderwort is Genus Utricularia. The mode of nutrition is through the holozoic system, which is trapping of insects.

The intake of an organic matter to get the exact nitrogen makes the plant blossom. Immediately an insect is trapped, digestion begins.

There are 220 species of bladderwort. These species trap both flying and crawling insects to get the right nutrient.

Bladderwort is a leafless plant with a thinning stem. They produce flowers that attract butterflies and insects. 

The plant lacks a deep root but grows a horizontal floating stem that is both the root and stem. The small stem produces flowers that are yellow, and white.

The flowers are bisexual and bilaterally symmetrical. Bisexual means the plant has the capacity to pollinate it self. 

Bladderwort has two sepals, five fused petals of an ovary shape. The presence of the petals and sepals makes the plant attractive to insects.

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Bladderwort grows faster and sometimes intertwines with other aquatic plants when planted together. 

Bladderwort are sensitive plants that require maintenance always. The plant does well in moist and well-drained soil.

It has fibrous roots that shout out from the soil. The stem grows vertically from the center of the roots that shoot out.

8. Cuscuta

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Cuscuta heterotrophic mode of nutrition is parasitic nutrition. It feeds on host plants.

Cuscuta suck nutrient and water from other plants to remain healthy and florish. It can’t absorb nutrients by itself from the ground.

The scientific name of the Cuscuta plant is Dodder. 

Cuscuta is both hemiparasite and holoparasite. Hemiparasite Cuscuta simply means the plant has chlorophyll. The presence of chlorophyll makes the plant green and does photosynthesis.

The species of Cuscuta that is hemiparasite needs full sunlight to blossom, while it thrives under partial lights.

The holoparasite species of Cuscuta plant doesn’t produce chlorophyll. Lack of chlorophyll makes the plant produce other colors except green.

Holoparasite doesn’t need full sunlight to blossom but partial or without sunlight to stay healthy and productive.

Holoparasite Cascute needs photosynthesis to aid the absorption of nutrients from host plants.

Cuscuta plant is connected to host plants through roots, which it’s used to absorb nutrients. 

How bright and florish of Cuscuta depends on the ability to suck host plants.

Lack of connection with the host plant after 2 weeks of germination will cause Cuscuta to die. The plants have fibrous roots that spread on the surface to connect other plants.

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9. Venus Fly Trap

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Venus fly trap is an heterotrophic mode of nutrition.

The scientific name of Venus fly trap is Dionaea muscipula.

Venus fly trap plants are green because they produce chlorophyll. 

The plant needs full sunlight to blossom and thrive under cold weather conditions.

Venus fly trap derives energy from nitrogen-rich animal proteins. As a result the plant can grow and florish under any poor-nitrogen soil.

The plants grow from a stem of bulbike rootstock and produce flowers at the tip of the erect stem. The height of the stem is between 20 – 30 cm tall. 

It produces leaves of 8 – 15 cm long. The foliage has blades that hinged along the midline. This is to enable the two circular lobes with spiny teeth to fold together.

When an insect enters inside, the sensitive hairs trigger a pressure that makes the open to close within half a second. 

The grands on the foliage surface produce a red snap that digests the insect and gives the entire insect red, and flowerlike appearance.

After which, the grands are secreted and kill the insect. It takes 10 days for the plant to completely digest the insect. The leaf will reopen after the digestion for another prey. 

The trap dies after successfully capturing 3 – 4 insects in four consecutive times.

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10. Agaricus Mushroom



Agaricus mushroom mode of nutrition is saprophytic nutrition. It derives its nutrients from dead organisms or decomposed leaves.

The scientific name of Agaricus mushroom is Agaricus bisporus.

Agaricus mushroom doesn’t require full sunlight. The plant blossoms under cold weather conditions.

The roots are sometimes out of the ground.

Agaricus mushroom produces flowers that are like an umbrella-like shaped gilled mushrooms. The color of the flowers are chocolate-brown.

It doesn’t need photosynthesis to produce or germinate very well. Therefore it does well under partial sunlight. Most importantly, some of the species grow healthy in very cold environments.

Agaricus mushroom is a fungus, which originated from Brazil. 

It’s a popular plant that grows in most parts of the world like China, Japan, Brazil, and the US.

Agaricus mushroom is an edible plant. It is used to cure type 2 diabetes. Also, use to treat high blood pressure.


In the blog “Understanding Plants: Exploring Their Heterotrophic Mode of Nutrition” at PlantGardener, delve into the fascinating world of plant nutrition. Uncover the intricacies of heterotrophic modes, where plants exhibit unique feeding behaviors. Discover how plants adapt and thrive, drawing nutrients from diverse sources. Gain insights into the symbiotic relationships that contribute to their growth. This blog provides a comprehensive exploration of plant nutrition, offering a deeper understanding of the dynamic ways in which plants sustain themselves in various environments.

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Here you have heterotrophic mode of nutrition plants. Some of the plants like Agaricus Mushroom are used to treat most of the health challenges.

Irrespective of the weather conditions of your area, you can still get the heterotrophic plant that’ll florish among these 10 plants listed above.

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