Thomas Jefferson collected them (during his stay in Paris in 1786, he requested a shipment of the seeds of “the Sensitive Plant,” perhaps to wow Parisians). A few decades later, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, the green-thumbed Empress Josephine, grew flytraps in the gardens of the Château de Malmaison, her manor house.The plant was also the model, more or less, for "Audrey Junior," the carnivorous star of Little Shop of Horrors.
Now, about that name. Smithsonian gives part of the story -
Live plants were first exported to England in 1768, where people referred to them as “tipitiwitchets.” A British naturalist, John Ellis, gave the plant its scientific name: Dionaea is a reference to Dione, mother of love goddess Venus (some believe this was a bawdy anatomical pun about the plant’s half-closed leaves and red insides), and muscipula means “mousetrap.”I tracked down the rest of the story at Tipitiwitchet Explained:
Naturalists have long puzzled over the name Tipitiwitchet, given by John Bartram... 'Tippet' is a fur collar, in ordinary English, and Marlowe's 'Hempen tippet', a hangman's rope, is a poetic embellishment... A 'Twitch' is a noose for recalcitrant horses. 'Twitchers' are either pincers or tight boots; and, of course, 'Twitchety' is nervous, fidgety, jerky...And a final confirmation re the etymology from Sarracenia.com, the website of the International Carnivorous Plant Society:
All these terms... parallel the term 'Snatch-box' that Partridge records as used for vulva in popular parlance.... Further, more specifically American, although the technique must be more widespread, a 'Twitch‑up' is a trap for small animals especially rabbits, consisting of a noose attached to a bent stick or sapling that springs upward when tripped.
Finally, vestiges of Elizabethan (and later) English... are heard from senior citizens at a mid-coast Maine hamlet - far from Tipitiwitchet country. They speak of 'Twitchet Avenue', disregarding both its present sanitized label and its presumed current lack of saleable feminine attractions...
For while you might expect a scientist to express wonder or astonishment upon seeing the plant, Bartram wrote to Collinson on 29 August 1762 that "my little tipitiwitchet sensitive stimulates laughter in all ye beholders". Surely, surely this suggests that when Bartram would show off his plant, he did so in such a way to inspire laughter. This seems to indicate that he was showing off the plant with rude commentary!..And perhaps by ?coincidence or through etymological innocence -
The truth was exposed by a reading of a letter Peter Collinson (in England) sent to Bartram... He still hoped to get seeds from Arthur Dobbs... [but] Dobbs (73 years old) was no longer quite so interested in things such as this plant--as remarkable as it was--because he had just gotten married to a very, very, very young [15-year-old] girl.
"Beatrix Potter did use a similar word - tippity-twitchet - to describe a little girl, “a funny specimen ... a pretty little imp of eight or nine with yellow curls, in the neatest of little blue and pink combination knickerbockers riding a bicycle. A very tippity-twitchet.”You learn something every day.