One day long ago, when walking in a Victorian State Forest or National Park somewhere, my late uncle beckoned me over and showed me a tiny little plant nestled amongst the leaves. It was green and had sticky leaves the insects stuck to, and he told me it was called drosera, more commonly known as a sundew.
I was about twelve, and that was the first insect-eating plant I ever saw. It fostered in me a lifelong fascination with carnivorous plants.
As a teenager I spent hours in the Keysborough Nursery known as Garden World, where its ‘Collectors Corner’ sold unusual plants that included pots of carnivorous plants of all varieties. I purchased several different pots of Sarracenia – pitcher plants native to North American swamplands; Dionaea Muscipula – the popular Venus Fly Trap; and even some rarer and harder-to-grow varieties including cephalotus follicularis – the rare and endangered Albany Pitcher Plant from Western Australia. At some stage I was given a pot of the Queensland sundew drosera capensis by another enthusiast, little knowing it would prove to be a beloved weed across all my pots.
For years I grew the carnivorous plants in the back yard, potted in a 50:50 mix of sphagnum and peat moss, standing in troughs of water. The Sarracenia are a rhizomatous plant, and I still have many of the original plants I first bought more than 20 years ago. They are very hardy and easy to grow, so long as you repot every couple of years, keep them moist and don’t ever expose them to insecticide or other chemicals. The Sarracenia have these strange-yet-beautiful flowers, which are plentiful in the picture above. Venus Fly Traps are not hard to grow either and like the same conditions… Cephalotus, on the other hand, really tricky!
Several years ago, I was lucky enough to see Cephalotus, the Albany Pitcher Plant, in its natural environment – the locations are a closely guarded secret by locals, but we were lucky enough to be trusted. It was a true thrill to be able to see them in the wild – so large and healthy looking! Someday I hope to see the North American Sarracenia in their natural environments as well.
I don’t have any cephalotus any more; they died when I tried repotting them. I never could get their conditions quite right.
I still have plenty of Sarracenia, and the Sundew self-propagates all over the place. I took to making mixed display pots a few years ago, reasoning they look attractive when the different shaped plants and varieties are clumped together. The picture below was taken a few days ago and shows the Venus Fly Trap among the Sarracenia and Sundew.
It seems fitting to highlight my carnivors right now, as on Monday it will be a year since my dear uncle who started it all passed away. We still miss him terribly, but his spirit lives on.
The wonder of carnivorous plants is my inspiration of the week. What strange and wonderous hobbies do you have?