Carnivorous plants are enjoying unprecedented popularity today. Their popularity stems from the realization that they are relatively easy to grow combined with the mystique that surrounds "man-eating plants." Carnivorous plants are immortalized in Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, the late, late shows and monster movies. The fact that carnivorous plants have the ability to lure, capture, and digest organic matter from the animal world has fascinated people for generations. Carnivorous plants rearrange the natural order of nature where plants are usually the meal, not the consumer of animal protein.
Adding to the increasing popularity of growing carnivorous plants is the current availability of species from Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Enthusiasts as well as novices have a broad range of plants to choose from or specialize in.
We hope that by providing direct, easy-to-follow growing instructions, along with helpful hints and pointing out pitfalls to avoid, this book will tempt the curious individual into growing carnivorous plants and guide the avid enthusiasts in selecting plants, growing methods, and propagation techniques best suited to their situation.
A brief note on the organization and intent of this book and the thinking behind the organization is in order. Our combined backgrounds blend botany, chemistry, and practical experience into a mix that has led us into an inquisitive and investigative approach in caring for and propagating carnivorous plants.
The information gained from our own personal experiences, reading, talking and corresponding with other growers and carnivorous plant enthusiasts is organized within this book.
The first chapters of the book deal with specific information on each group or genus of carnivorous plants, such as the Sundews, Butterworts, and the Venus Fly Trap. Each chapter includes information on the history of the plant, natural environment, trapping mechanism, species that comprise the genus, botanical description, specific cultural requirements and specific propagating techniques as well as information of general interest.
Later chapters are devoted to the general cultural requirements necessary to successfully grow and propagate carnivorous plants as well as information concerning purchasing, growing outdoors, feeding and pest control. The later chapters contain general information pertinent to all carnivorous plants. This information is accumulated in separate chapters for easy reference to avoid repetition. This organization allows the book to be a reference tool as well as a textbook.
Chapters and sections dealing with genera contain lists of species within the genera. The species are organized into groups that have similar cultural requirements. For the species commercially available, more detailed information is included. When species not currently available commercially do become available, cultural information can be gleaned from the group in which it is included.
The intent of this book is to provide cultural data for growing carnivorous plants, including information pertaining to soils, pots, containers, light, water and humidity, dormancy, fertilization, feeding, pest control, germination of seeds, propagation (sexual and asexual), and hybridization.
The contents of this book reflect over 25 years experience in growing, propagating, hybridizing, and selling over 125 species of carnivorous plants. We have also compiled and integrated information gathered by other growers and hobbyists. Thus it provides you with information that will enable you to grow carnivorous plants successfully, and also to experiment on your own. For example, Sarracenia, the Pitcher Plants, grow well in several different growing media, even though many people have their favorite media. It could very well be that in a particular environment a specific growing media is most effective. It is doubtful that the growing environment of any two growers is exactly identical. Knowing this, you can select the most readily and/or economically available growing media in your area. The information provided in this book can be the basis for experimentation with other growing media. The same idea can be applied to the other cultural areas such as seed germination, and vegetative reproduction. There is much more that needs to be learned about the cultural requirements of these plants. Therefore, the accumulation of this knowledge will require the efforts of many growers, including you. Once this information is gained it should be shared with others. The best method of disseminating information is through the publications of the various carnivorous plant societies.
Some plants, like people, have their idiosyncrasies, and once these are known, the job of growing them is made much easier. By growing, we mean maintaining plants that are healthy, vigorous, and usually flowering, not just keeping the plants alive for several years with the plant's vigor slowly decreasing each year.
The authors are indebted to innumerable carnivorous plants growers whose continued advice, suggestions, and questions encouraged the writing of this manuscript. We thank our daughters Darcy and Robin for their patience and forebearance during this project.
The fine artwork of Saundra Dowling and the cordial and thoughtful advice of Richard Abel of Timber Press are gratefully acknowledged.
WHAT IS CARNIVORY?
What is plant carnivory? Or specifically, what characteristics must a plant have to be called carnivorous? Carnivorous means literally "meat eating." When this definition is applied to plants it evokes visions of snarling green jaws snapping at nearby animal life. Although the vision is vivid, it is not in keeping with reality. Most plants are subtle in their means of entrapping animal prey and have evolved sophisticated means of digesting it; Dionaea is the proverbial exception.
A good working definition of a carnivorous plant is needed' and must account for the following characteristics: attracting prey (lures, odors, and directional guides), trapping of prey, secreting digestive enzymes and absorption of digested materials. A realistic definition of plant carnivory should be based on whether animal nutrients are digested by enzymes produced by the plant. The means of digestion varies in this group of plants. While in some digestion is the result of secreted enzymes and bacterial action, in a few it is totally attributable to bacterial action. At the present time the number of known digestive enzymes secreted by carnivorous plants varies from five in Nepenthes to none in Heliamphora. In all plants categorized as carnivorous the digestive organs are modified leaves.
One plant which is not carnivorous has seeds that are carnivorous. John T. Barber and colleagues discovered that dead mosquito larvae were attached to single seeds of Capsella bursa-pastoris. The larvae were attracted to the seeds by a chemical released by the seed and killed by a toxin produced by the seed. In addition, the seeds secrete an enzyme which digests protein of the larvae and which permits them to subsequently absorb the material. In the plants' natural environment mosquito larvae are not common, so research was continued with organisms such as protozoans, nematodes and motile bacteria which the seeds are more likely to encounter. Preliminary results show that these seeds are able to attract, kill and digest some of these organisms.
There are plants that appear structurally similar to those classified as carnivorous. Although some species of these genera might be carnivorous, this aspect of their nature has not yet been investigated. Some genera containing species in this category are listed below, classified by their type of trapping mechanism. PLANTS DISPLAYING PASSIVE TRAPPING CHARACTERISTICS
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