April 5

My Little Shop of Horrors

One of my favorite rites of Spring is watching my carnivorous plants come back to life. Most of the ones on my back patio are indigenous to my area, so they taper off and die back during the cold months, then slowly, stealthily, come back to life when the temperatures begin to rise.

Pitcher plant flower buds.
Poking their little heads up out of the sphagnum moss.

For my sarracenias (trumpet pitchers), the focus is on flowering. Initially, I’ll see these tiny, pea-sized balls breaking the surface of the sphagnum moss, then they quickly spring up on long stems. Over the next week or so they slowly open to reveal an alien-looking flower.

In theory, I should cut the flower stems so the plant can focus more energy on creating pitchers, which is how they get their sustenance. But I love the flowers and like to spread the seeds around for propagation.

This year I have a few new additions to my Little Shop of Horrors (as my partner likes to call it). This includes another type of pitcher that grows lower to the ground. What I’m proud of is the fact that the new pitchers are so much larger than the old ones. I interpret that to mean this guy loves his new environment and is ready to get to work on the local insect population.

Pitcher plant.
Look at those little red capillaries.

Of course, I always feel the need to clarify that having carnivorous plants on your patio doesn’t mean you’ll never need to call for pest control. They aren’t active bug hunters, laying in wait in the tall grass for the unsuspecting beetle to happen by. No, they are passive. Incredibly so. And they don’t always capture what I want them to. For example, I’ve found honeybees decomposing in the bottom of a pitcher trap, along with the occasional lizard that probably wandered down the tube thinking it was getting a free meal.

Fun fact: In Southeast Asia, some pitcher plants get so large that people have discovered small primates in the traps. One wrong turn…

The other issue is mosquitoes. Here in Florida, mosquitoes are a problem nearly year-round, and unfortunately, carnivorous plants like to sit in water and stay moist. In other words, their environments are breeding grounds for the little bloodsuckers. And no, carnivorous plants don’t attract mosquitoes. Every once in a while I may see one stuck to a sundew, but that’s just the result of bad piloting on the part of the mosquito.

Speaking of which, my sundews are doing exceptionally well at the moment. One is indigenous to the area, so that’s not surprising. What did catch me off guard was my Australian sundew. I originally purchased it about ten years ago from a local plant breeder (licensed to breed carnivorous plants). At the time, he told me the plant was sterile. It would flower and possible go to seed, but the seeds would never sprout. No worries, I thought, I can live with that.

And it did flower and go to seed. Repeatedly over the years. Unfortunately, two years ago it died back and never returned. That happens. Plants don’t live forever.

But to my surprise, early this year it rose from the dead and showed up in a completely different pot on my patio. So I guess that life found a way (to quote the book of Goldblum).

Australian sundew
A small forest of Australian sundew with pitcher buds.

My other sundew has become an eating machine. In this photo you can see the paddles covered in little bugs. Sundews are one of my favorites. In fact, I will occasionally bring them into the house and put them on a windowsill when a fly wanders inside. It usually doesn’t take more than a day or two for them to meet and my sundew ends up with a nice meal. Sort of like a watchdog, but with a lower profile and less barking.

Well-fed sundew.
A well-fed sundew.

I’ve also been tracking the pitcher buds as they rise up and prepare to bloom. I’ll post some shots of those soon.

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my little shop of horrors. You should visit some time. Audrey would love to have you for dinner.

Venus flytraps
Say ‘hi’ to Audrey.

RB


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Posted 2021-04-05 by RB in category "Gardening", "Personal

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