A fascination with carnivorous plants

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.

Part of my collection - October 2006
Part of my collection – October 2006

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.

Cephalotus in the wild near Albany, WA
Cephalotus in the wild near Albany, WA

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.

Fly Traps among the Sarracenia and Sundew - January 2013
Fly Traps among the Sarracenia and Sundew – January 2013

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?


8 thoughts on “A fascination with carnivorous plants

  1. I wish I had more time for my plants. Some weeks it is hard to remember to water them! Right now, I only have 2 African Violets and 3 coffee plants. The coffee plants are grown from seeds, one of them is 8 feet tall. And then there’s the fig tree that is taking over the living room so we’re giving it away. There is still a Christmas poinsettia.
    It’s the middle of a snowy winter here. By late April, I may start a few things indoors. I may even buy a few blooming plants for indoors.


    1. I LOVE the idea of coffee plants – how cool! With those and the fig tree, your living room sounds really tropical.

      I have a single plant growing inside — it’s a bamboo thing in the bathroom, given to me as a housewarming present. For 10 years I’ve been meaning to get more indoor plants, but have never quite gotten around to it!


  2. Wow, those plants are so cool! It seems fitting that a fantasy author would have such interesting flora in her home. I’ve never had any house plants like that, just your standard ones that may or may not live for any length of time. As for strange and wondrous hobbies, I think this writing gig falls into that category. 😉


    1. Yeah, they are really cool, but you think I’d have these things inside? Surely that would be asking for trouble! 😀
      Actually, I believe you can grow them inside, but I’ve always liked them to catch rainwater and sunlight and fresh air.


  3. I’m with Tami – would love to see how you scramble up your love of carnivorous plants in your writing.
    And as for odd-ball hobbies? Does singing Gregorian Chant count? Hardanger embroidery? Collecting early to mid-twentieth century china? I got your odd-ball hobbies covered!


    1. Hm, the carnivors don’t really fit into the world I’m writing within at the moment… perhaps one day in the future.

      As for your oddball hobbies — I LOVE listening to Gregorian Chant and early music in general. I’m a huge fan of Monteverdi and Hildegard Von Bingen.

      I had to google Hardanger embroidery… not sure how you find time to do that!!


  4. These plants are in dire need of sunlight. They very much lack coloration. I never saw sarracenias lacking color pigment like that and having the flowers sinuous like snakes. They should be strong upward and straight. Sarracenias need full sun all day long and a winter sleep to be healthy or they will just decline or look sad.


    1. Alas, no positions with full sun in my courtyard. But ten years later, said plants are thriving. Guess, they must be OK. (Also, don’t forget that photo was taken at the start of the growing season, October being spring downunder.)


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