Saturday, May 14, 2011

Climbing Carnivore

The stereotypical image of carnivorous plants is the Venus flytrap in 'Little Shop of Horrors'. But most serious plant hobbyist would already know that 'plant carnivores' are far from that monster plant portrayed in the movie. They are never aggressive and most of the time their appetite only extends to insects and very minute animals. There are far more dangerous plants with potent poisons and toxins which should be feared more by people. But most plant collectors have avoided keeping these carnivorous plants mainly because they are harder to keep and maintain in a typical city garden.

I particularly have tried to rear carnivorous plants, from the simple pitcher plant (Nepenthes spp.) to the much aspired Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). I was successful in some occasions to emulate the very humid to almost bog-like environment needed to cultivate them. Once I already got one species of Nepenthes to even flower. But when the summer months came, these plants were one of the first plants to suffer in my dry full-sun garden. Now I have completely given up keeping any of these carnivores.

But it is very much possible to keep some of the simpler pitcher plants in an urban garden. This afternoon I went to my friend Ronald's garden and saw his Nepenthes growing new pitchers. He has kept his plant on a driftwood with a lot of other epiphytes. The Nepenthes is benifitting from the humidity created from proximity to other plant species. In turn the plant developed new pitchers to trap insects and harness their animal protein.

The Philippines has about a score of Nepenthes species and probably a few Droseras. The Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society came out with a limited run poster featuring Philippine pitcher plants. This was one of the last projects Leonard Co did as president of PNPCSI.

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