Leah and I both got carnivorous plants. “Hers” is a sundew plan, and “mine” is a pitcher plant, and I’m using quotation marks here because first, as an egalitarian couple, these are our plants, and second, though I love all of our plants a lot, Leah is probably just a little more vested in their care than I am. With regards to our entire plant collect, Leah is mainly the one who waters them, who repots them, who sings to them, and who takes care of all of their other plant needs. But perhaps I’ll be the one who catches and gives the new additions insects, which I think I can do well, and which Leah probably won’t want to do. Finally, this is my time to shine!
As for the bugs, the other day there was a bumblebee in our apartment. It crossed Leah’s and my minds that these plants could eat it, though our little carnivores are small, and look delicate—I think a bumblebee either trapped in the sundew’s tentacles, or in the pitcher plant’s… erm, pitchers, might hurt it. Fruit flies seem to be of appropriate size, however, and my plan is to leave old banana peels around the apartment; nothing attracts fruit flies like old banana peels. Leah isn’t inclined to have “garbage” just sitting on the counter, but perhaps I could leave peels in other places, like directly outside our apartment? Anyway it could be a compromise.
I’ve actually had carnivorous plants in the past, and from both my experience and from what I’ve read, they really only need insects for what amounts to supplemental nutrition. As long as you keep the plants very moist with distilled water they do well, and what usually kills them is either a lack of water or young children trying to feed them too much. And I know that last point from direct experience. Every spring growing up the local grocery store would get a supply of Venus flytraps, and every year I’d beg my mother to buy me one. If I succeeded in obtaining a flytrap, by fall it would be dead. Honestly, I bet I killed at least half a dozen before I was a teenager.
None of it was on purpose, but feeding flytraps was just so irresistible. I’d catch flies and grasshoppers and caterpillars and throw them into the plant’s mouths, and inevitably poke the mouths and brush against them and set them off. The food would be too big and hurt it, or the plant would close around my fingers and get yanked off. At a much older age I got sundews, the type of carnivorous plant which Leah has now, and they’re significantly hardier. Also, since sundews are so passive in their carnivorous tendencies—they just have sticky droplets that insects walk across and get stuck to—there isn’t as much a draw to play with them, and thus they survive longer.
We don’t have a Venus flytrap, but here is something interesting about that most iconic of carnivorous plants: they’re only naturally found within sixty miles of Wilmington, North Carolina. So they’re local! I’d really like to visit Green Swamp, the area where most of them can be found, and perhaps visiting there will inspire me to try Venus flytrap husbandry once more. In the meantime, however, we’ll have to keep our sundew and pitcher plants alive, and since I’ve been resisting the urge to test the sundrops or pitchers, I think they have a fairly good shot of making it—fingers (which I won’t be poking the plants with since I’m a mature adult now) crossed!
–Jeff and Leah