Venus fly-trap caused serious problems for the traditional theory of
the Great Chain of Being. The idea of the Great Chain suggested that
all of creation was arranged in a rigidly hierarchical system, with God
at the top and all living and nonlivng things descending below (for
The fly-trap clearly broke the chain, since it was a plant that could attract, capture, kill and digest insects, which were supposed to be higher on the scale. Like various species of mimosa, the fly-trap also possessed a form of sensation, supposedly only a property of animals.
"In the Dionaea muscipula there is a still more wonderful contrivance to prevent the depredations of insects; the leaves are armed with long teeth, like the antennae of insects, and lie spread upon the ground round the stem; and are so irritable, that when an insect creeps upon them, they fold up, and crush or pierce it to death" (Botanic Garden, "Loves of the Plants," I, 19, illustration, above)
"Of vegetable animation": "The fibres of the vegetable world, as well as those of the animal, are excitable into a variety of motions by irritations of external objects. This appears . . . [in] the Dionaea muscipula, which was lately brought over from the marshes of America" (Zoonomia, I, 73).