I checked your archive and I couldn’t find anything about this, so I thought I’d ask you. Years ago I remember reading that scientists were extremely vexed about the evolutionary appearance of Venus flytraps. The article I read said that the little evil-looking plants simply appeared some time in our planet’s history without any apparent relatives, and the creepiest thing is that their (very small) native area is right in the middle of where a meteor hit the earth years ago. Is this true? It sounds very “Little Shop of Horrors” to me. Additionally, how do the plants “know” when an insect is in their maws? I didn’t think plants had nerves. I patiently await your reply.
SDStaff Doug replies:
There are no scientists puzzled about the Venus flytrap, only “scientists.” The VFT is the only member of its genus, Dionaea, but it has several relatives in the genus Drosera, which also happen to be carnivorous plants, known as “sundews.” Together, these two genera make up the plant family Droseraceae. Sundews occur all over the world, while the VFT is limited to bogs throughout North and South Carolina — and, despite any X-Files episodes to the contrary, neither of the Carolinas used to be a meteor crater….
Subject: Re: April New Plants
To: Cactus Jungle
Hi. Just an fyi: Sarracinia Bug Bat (?) is best known as Sarracinia Minor.
Sent from my iPhone
It’s been brought into our collection as a Hybrid. It may have also been a common name for S. minor, but we are referring to:
“Sarracenia ‘Bug Bat’ is a pitcher plant that was hybridized.. by Larry Mellichamp at University of North Carolina at Charlotte Botanical Gardens… Sarracenia ‘Bug Bat’ is most likely a cross of Sarracenia (alata × psittacina) × minor var. okefenokeensis….
“The name Bug Bat was coined about 2005 by David Crump alluding to the shape of the pitchers resemblance to baseball bats, and then associated with catching bugs.”
(B)y studying the pitcher plant’s genome — and comparing its insect-eating fluids to those of other carnivorous plants — researchers have found that meat-eating plants the world over have hit on the same deadly molecular recipe, even though they are separated by millions of years of evolution.
“We’re really looking at a classic case of convergent evolution,” says Victor Albert, a plant-genome scientist at the University of Buffalo, New York, who co-led the study…
(C)arnivory has evolved repeatedly in plants, probably to cope with the nutrient-scarce soils in which they grow, Albert says. “What they’re trying to do is capture nitrogen and phosphorus from their prey.”…
(T)he new study is important because it demonstrates how this convergence can occur down to the molecular level, …says Aaron Ellison, an ecologist at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts….
Gaining the ability to eat an insect is of little use if a plant cannot first entrap one, and here evolution has come up with more diverse solutions, Albert notes.
Sun: Moderate to Full Sun
Size: Rosettes to 5″
Narrow, strappy leaves are sticky, trap bugs like flypaper. Purple flowers. Do not water over the leaves. Grow in peat, sand and pumice. Keep moist most of the year, but allow soil to slightly dry out in winter before watering when dormant.
I would say there is still hope for the Sarracenia. The problem is there is too much water. These are bog plants, which generally means they prefer very moist soils, but not where the water line is above the soil like you would do for a pond plant. And in a terrarium where the water is not moving, the water needs to be able to go down.
I recommend carefully tipping the terrarium over to get all the water out, holding the plant in place as best you can. When you water, add enough to let the water sit at the bottom just high enough to get above the charcoal and into the soil, and then let the water go down below the soil/charcoal line before adding more water.
Hopefully there will be new growth within a couple weeks.
Thanks to Anne we are having a lot of success this year with our carnivorous plants!
Here we have 3 plants and some of Anne’s great new basic care and prop info to go with it. Enjoy!
Dionaea muscipula “Dente” is the small-toothed Venus Fly Trap of lore. Will eat rats and pigeons when it has grown big enough. Which should be any minute now.
Dionea (Venus Fly Trap): Grow using the tray method year round. Hardy outside year round in the Bay Area and can take full sun once hardened off.
Sarracenia purpurea is a lower growing Pitcher Plant from the swamps of the Allegheny Mountains. I wonder if that’s true? No, sadly it’s not. There are no swamps once you get high enough up in the Alleghenys. Good to know.
Sarracenia (American, or Temperate, Pitcher Plant): Grow using the tray method year round. Hardy outside year round in the Bay Area and can take full sun once hardened off.
Soil: equal parts peat, sand, and pumice
Pinguicula moctezumae is a Butterwort from Mexico. It looks like it has had a hardy meal.
Pinguicula (Butterwort): The species that we currently carry, Pinguicula moctezumae, is a Mexican species which grows in an environment where it has warm wet summers and cool dry winters.
We were not having a lot of success with our pitcher plants this year so Hap tested the water. In the past, EBMUD’s water was nicely neutral, but this year it has become a lot more alkaline so we’ve had to start correcting the water.
Everyone recommends distilled water for carnivorous plants, and we agree.
But we’re using a teaspoon of vinegar in a gallon of regular water at the nursery since it’s cheaper. And at home we’re using our refrigerated drinking water – we put lemon slices in the water and that works too!
Nepenthes alata growing a new baby pitcher, finally. It’s only about an inch right now, but it will eventually get to 12″.
I got a venus fly trap a while ago from you guys, but it hasn’t rained here in the bay area for a while, and I’m really tired of driving to a super market paying 50 cents per gallon of distilled/ RO water. Do you have any tips for saving water? Does adding long fibered sphagnum moss work?
We find that East Bay MUD Water is PH neutral enough to use with our carnivores… as long as we add a pinch of grape pomace to the pot every now and then… Vinegar at about a teaspoon to a gallon of water is also said to work, but I have not tried it on carnivores, just acid loving orchids.
And for those who were wondering where you can get this special MUD water that Hap mentions, it stands for Municipal Utility District. In other words, it comes out of our faucets, but not yours.