Venus Fly Traps
By Kim Haworth
I know this will sound stupid, but I’m sitting in my office weeping into my keyboard because some damn fool stole my Venus Fly Traps. I adored them, and now they are gone. These adorable little plants did everything but talk back to me. All through the summer, they caught everything from yellow jackets to beetles to those big mosquito eaters. I would stop for my morning visit and see the leaves shaking furiously, accompanied by ghastly buzzing. The little plants held onto their pray like grim death. There were even some volunteer Sundews that grew in the same pots with the fly traps and they were absolute murder on the ant population. The little executioners captured everything except spiders, which I have the feeling were too smart to fall for their lures. I have never had plants that gave me so much pleasure, and now they’re with somebody who doesn’t know how to care for them.
It’s not like they looked great or anything. They were well into their dormant period so some of the leaves were black and withered, the saucer was green and scummy and the leaves that were left each held the remnants of a grisly meal. Why would anybody steal something like that?
Here’s a little background on carnivorous plants, and Venus Fly traps in particular, in case you want to try growing them yourself. Some plants live in environments where nutrients aren’t available, so they have evolved ingenious ways to trap insects and then digest the bodies as a source of nitrogen.
There are three basic types of carnivorous plants; the Fly traps, which have hinged leaves that actually enclose and trap an insect, Pitcher plants which have water filled funnels instead of conventional leaves and Sticky leaved plants such as the sundews that attract and capture insects with a sticky sap, then digest them. The Venus Fly trap is probably the best know of the carnivores.
Carnivorous plants are not at all difficult to grow indoors, so long as you have a buggy spot for them to live. A sun porch window where doors open and close frequently to let in insects is perfect. They need as much sun and heat as you can provide and a resting period during the winter months. In their native creek beds near Wilmington, North Carolina, the Venus fly trap has all the heat and humidity anybody could stand during the summer months, and freezing temperatures in the winter. Mimic these conditions and you will have success with your own carnivores.
Most carnivorous plants are native to streams where the water is very pure. They should be watered with either distilled water or rain water for best results. Don’t wash the containers with soap or detergent which may adhere to the glass. I kept my plants in a plastic saucer which I kept about 1/3 filled with water from my fresh water aquarium. The container became a bit scummy looking, but the plants seemed to thrive. If you don’t have an aquarium, catch and store rain water in clean glass containers that have been allowed to air dry for several days or purchase bottled spring water.
The growing medium should to be kept damp to wet all year long. It should be made up of 1 part peat moss mixed with 1 part sand or fine gravel, but you don’t need to worry about transplanting for the first year or so.
Watering is done from the bottom and there should always be some water standing in the saucer. The plants will tolerate deeper water if you plan to go away for a week or so. There should be ample humidity from the water in the bottom of the saucer.
Although it is tempting, don’t overfeed your carnivores. An occasional dead fly or spider dropped onto the leaves will suffice, but I always let my little plants work for their supper, and they did just fine. And one more thing, please try not to trick them into closing on a pencil or finger. It wastes precious energy and the oils from your hands will damage delicate leaves.