All Posts   Posted:   June 16, 2016 by Jennifer Williams (Visual)

There was a clever plant that swallowed a fly... and thought it was delicious!

There are places in the world where the soil is so poor plants have evolved ways of gaining nutrients with less conventional methods. They still photosynthesize (harness the sun’s rays) as their main source of energy, but in addition they actively attract insects in order to consume them as a sort of nutritious dessert.

Plants have evolved such mechanisms in many different environments, giving rise to nearly 600 different carnivorous species that have developed all sorts of outlandish structures to ensnare prey. They’ve thought of everything from sticky foliage (Sundews), pitfalls (Pitchers), to the actual motion of traps snapping shut (Flytraps). Not only are these sinister adaptations fascinating but they can serve a practical function for humans too, by secreting a musky odor to attract nuisance insects like gnats, mosquitos, and flies. During summer's tomato - aka gnat – season, my glass of wine was under constant bombardment from gnats until I placed a ravenous Cape Sundew species Drosera capensis in my kitchen window. Now I pity the gnat that attempts to live in said kitchen!

Most varieties of commercially-available carnivorous plants are quite easy and rewarding to grow; here are a few tips on creating a thriving bog garden of your own:

There are three main types of carnivores to consider for your bog garden:

  • Pitcher Plants are some of the most impressive looking insect-eaters, with beautifully colored pitchers that can reach heights of 2+ feet. They can be quite striking! These pitchers are often patterned as well as colorful; this is another clever way of confusing insects into a sort of maze that leads to the chamber full of digestive juices and enzymes. Nothing about these plants is typical, including the unique flowers - during spring they bloom in shades of yellow and burgundy that resemble an abstract daffodil. There’s even a species of Pitcher plant native to parts of SW Oregon, Darlingtonia californica. Also known as Cobra Lily, it has a dramatic forked hood over the pitcher that resembles the forked tongue of a snake.
  • Sundews catch their prey with linear or spoon-shaped leaves covered in tiny hairs, each one with a sticky glob at the end that works to both attract and trap unsuspecting insects. They are smaller and grow in a rosette, which makes them perfect for a windowsill or the edge of your bog garden.
  • Flytraps are perhaps the most famous of all carnivorous plants because they don’t just lure victims in, their leaf structure has actually evolved a sort of toothed hinge that snaps shut on its prey. This is such a novel feat for a plant that it can be tempting to trigger the hinge just to watch it shut, but without the reward of an insect meal it’s a costly maneuver that can weaken the plant.

Companions – some other plants that like wet feet you can mingle into the bog are varieties of Juncus, Acorus, perennial Lobelias (laxiflora is so pretty!), and the ever-fun little floaters like Frogbit and Water Lettuce.

Bog Garden Supplies:

  • Plant start(s) – pitchers, sundews, flytraps
  • Peat moss (or coir)
  • Sharp horticultural sand (washed, not play sand)
  • Pumice
  • Low bowl (at least 12” deep & 18” wide) that is watertight and plastic or ceramic (not metal, raw cement, or treated wood)
  • 6” nursery pot (with drain holes) or several stones/brick
  • Distilled water or rainwater - these plants prefer a lower Ph and are sensitive to calcium and salts found in tap water
  • Urea-free fertilizer (usually marketed for orchids in a 20.10.20 formula)

Planting

  1. Mix the soil together in 2/1/1 ratio of peat moss/sand/pumice and thoroughly moisten.
  2. Fill 3/4 of your bowl with the soil mix and leave 1/4 for a water reservoir, which you can install by burying the nursery pot or creating a mini retaining wall with the stones/brick. This is essential for keeping the bog garden moist but not soggy.
  3. Plant your favorite selection of carnivorous plant(s) in the soil and gently water in.
  4. Top-dress with washed pebbles to keep soil in place until things settle in.

Care - easier than you might think if you follow these simple rules!

  1. Keep moist at all times, but not soggy. This is easy to achieve by making sure the reservoir doesn’t dry out completely in bog gardens, and for indoor cultivation keep in a shallow dish filled with rocks and water.
  2. They prefer 6-8 hours of sun per day - this will help to bring out the bright red, pink, white and yellow coloring on the foliage.
  3. Feeding your plants meat will kill them, don’t do it! If you want to give them a snack, fresh caught insects are a better choice but typically they do just fine on their own.
  4. Mist leaves with fertilizer once weekly (non-urea blend).
  5. Hardy varieties will be happy outdoors in most winter conditions as long as they don’t dry out or freeze for extended periods. Flytraps need a bit of winter protection or to be brought inside.
  6. Cut back old foliage in the spring to clean up and make way for their new growth and flowers.

 

We generally think of plants as passive and peaceful sentinels in the environment, so these bloodthirsty members of the plant kingdom excite much intrigue – such as with the cult classic 1980’s film The Little Shop of Horrors where a seemingly innocent seedling (“Feed me, Seymor!”) grows into a man eater. Welcome to the world of carnivorous plants!

There was a clever plant that swallowed a fly... and thought it was delicious!

There are places in the world where the soil is so poor plants have evolved ways of gaining nutrients with less conventional methods. They still photosynthesize (harness the sun’s rays) as their main source of energy, but in addition they actively attract insects in order to consume them as a sort of nutritious dessert.

Plants have evolved such mechanisms in many different environments, giving rise to nearly 600 different carnivorous species that have developed all sorts of outlandish structures to ensnare prey. They’ve thought of everything from sticky foliage (Sundews), pitfalls (Pitchers), to the actual motion of traps snapping shut (Flytraps). Not only are these sinister adaptations fascinating but they can serve a practical function for humans too, by secreting a musky odor to attract nuisance insects like gnats, mosquitos, and flies. During summer's tomato - aka gnat – season, my glass of wine was under constant bombardment from gnats until I placed a ravenous Cape Sundew species Drosera capensis in my kitchen window. Now I pity the gnat that attempts to live in said kitchen!

Most varieties of commercially-available carnivorous plants are quite easy and rewarding to grow; here are a few tips on creating a thriving bog garden of your own:

There are three main types of carnivores to consider for your bog garden:

  • Pitcher Plants are some of the most impressive looking insect-eaters, with beautifully colored pitchers that can reach heights of 2+ feet. They can be quite striking! These pitchers are often patterned as well as colorful; this is another clever way of confusing insects into a sort of maze that leads to the chamber full of digestive juices and enzymes. Nothing about these plants is typical, including the unique flowers - during spring they bloom in shades of yellow and burgundy that resemble an abstract daffodil. There’s even a species of Pitcher plant native to parts of SW Oregon, Darlingtonia californica. Also known as Cobra Lily, it has a dramatic forked hood over the pitcher that resembles the forked tongue of a snake.
  • Sundews catch their prey with linear or spoon-shaped leaves covered in tiny hairs, each one with a sticky glob at the end that works to both attract and trap unsuspecting insects. They are smaller and grow in a rosette, which makes them perfect for a windowsill or the edge of your bog garden.
  • Flytraps are perhaps the most famous of all carnivorous plants because they don’t just lure victims in, their leaf structure has actually evolved a sort of toothed hinge that snaps shut on its prey. This is such a novel feat for a plant that it can be tempting to trigger the hinge just to watch it shut, but without the reward of an insect meal it’s a costly maneuver that can weaken the plant.

Companions – some other plants that like wet feet you can mingle into the bog are varieties of Juncus, Acorus, perennial Lobelias (laxiflora is so pretty!), and the ever-fun little floaters like Frogbit and Water Lettuce.

Bog Garden Supplies:

  • Plant start(s) – pitchers, sundews, flytraps
  • Peat moss (or coir)
  • Sharp horticultural sand (washed, not play sand)
  • Pumice
  • Low bowl (at least 12” deep & 18” wide) that is watertight and plastic or ceramic (not metal, raw cement, or treated wood)
  • 6” nursery pot (with drain holes) or several stones/brick
  • Distilled water or rainwater - these plants prefer a lower Ph and are sensitive to calcium and salts found in tap water
  • Urea-free fertilizer (usually marketed for orchids in a 20.10.20 formula)

Planting

  1. Mix the soil together in 2/1/1 ratio of peat moss/sand/pumice and thoroughly moisten.
  2. Fill 3/4 of your bowl with the soil mix and leave 1/4 for a water reservoir, which you can install by burying the nursery pot or creating a mini retaining wall with the stones/brick. This is essential for keeping the bog garden moist but not soggy.
  3. Plant your favorite selection of carnivorous plant(s) in the soil and gently water in.
  4. Top-dress with washed pebbles to keep soil in place until things settle in.

Care - easier than you might think if you follow these simple rules!

  1. Keep moist at all times, but not soggy. This is easy to achieve by making sure the reservoir doesn’t dry out completely in bog gardens, and for indoor cultivation keep in a shallow dish filled with rocks and water.
  2. They prefer 6-8 hours of sun per day - this will help to bring out the bright red, pink, white and yellow coloring on the foliage.
  3. Feeding your plants meat will kill them, don’t do it! If you want to give them a snack, fresh caught insects are a better choice but typically they do just fine on their own.
  4. Mist leaves with fertilizer once weekly (non-urea blend).
  5. Hardy varieties will be happy outdoors in most winter conditions as long as they don’t dry out or freeze for extended periods. Flytraps need a bit of winter protection or to be brought inside.
  6. Cut back old foliage in the spring to clean up and make way for their new growth and flowers.

 

We generally think of plants as passive and peaceful sentinels in the environment, so these bloodthirsty members of the plant kingdom excite much intrigue – such as with the cult classic 1980’s film The Little Shop of Horrors where a seemingly innocent seedling (“Feed me, Seymor!”) grows into a man eater. Welcome to the world of carnivorous plants!