If you follow me on social media you may have seen a few posts about my carnivorous plants. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a wee lad and my father bought me a Venus fly trap from an ad I saw in the back of a comic book. The poor thing didn’t last long. It didn’t come with instructions so I was giving it tap water and trying to feed it bits of raw ground beef. Both are big mistakes when it comes to these types of plants.
About fifteen years ago my interest in them was renewed when I attended a lecture at a local plant nursery. I then picked up a couple of books on the topic and discovered that there are carnivorous plants growing in my area. Of course, carnivorous plants are protected, so digging them up in the wild is a big no-no and can result in fines and jail time. Luckily, there are licensed nurseries all over the U.S. that cultivate and sell them.
I’ve picked up most of my plants from California Carnivores. They offer an amazing variety that caters to both amateurs and professionals. I’ve also picked up a couple of plants locally. There’s a guy here who cultivates them in his backyard bog garden, then sells them through a locally-owned nursery.
Right now my pitcher plants are doing well. I have them planted in five gallon pots in a mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, and pine bark. Odd, right? The thing about carnivorous plants is that they don’t get much, if any, nutrition from the ground they grow in. Regular potting soil will kill them. Even tap water can be deadly, so I have a free-standing rain barrel that I use to water them. Despite their meat-eating habits, they’re actually quite delicate. To try to and keep them as comfortable as possible, I mostly leave them alone and let them do their thing, only pruning in the winter and leaving some of the dying pitchers until they completely dry out.
I don’t want to bore you with all the cool biology and tongue-twisting scientific names, but I think you might enjoy seeing a few of my pets.
This is a white pitcher plant that’s indigenous to my area here in North Florida. They grow wild in the national forest just south of town. The pitchers, at least in the pots on my patio, grow to a height of three to four foot. The lip of the pitcher excretes a sweet substance that attracts bugs. Then they slip and fall into the pitcher where they drown, and are digested, by enzymes in the water that gets trapped in there. The plants also have fine hairs pointing downwards that line the interior of the pitchers. In this photo, one pitcher is open for business while the other one is just about ready to open. If you click and zoom in, you can seem some of those fine hairs on the lid of the open one.
And here are some of my red, hooded pitchers. They tend to stay low to the ground. The interesting thing about this type of pitcher is the hood. When bugs fall in they obviously try to get back out. The white spots on the hood allow light in, which tricks the bugs into thinking that’s the way out. What they do is bounce off the inside of the hood over and over until they’re exhausted, then down into the enzyme soup they go!
This photo is of some regular hooded pitchers. The same thing applies here with the white ‘bubbles’ on the hood helping to render the victims immobile. If you look close, you can also see an Australian sundew that’s moved into the neighborhood.
Fun fact: When I bought the Australian sundew I was told it was sterile and wouldn’t propagate. Over the course of three or four years it would flower like crazy and seed up, but that’s it. Then, earlier this year, I found that some seeds fell into this pitcher pot and sprouted. I must be doing something right.
I’ll share more of my deadly little garden in the future. I also have Venus fly-traps, sundews, and a variety of other pitchers.
Hope you enjoyed this foray into my weird world.