This is the article I wrote for the inaugral edition of the Ontario Carnivorous Plant Society, reprinted here with permission from myself. *This is old hat for many of you already enlisted in Tamlin's Army, but with all the new faces and names coming in, I wanted to see if I can get to YOU.
My Thoughts on Sharing:
By William Dawnstar
Carnivorous plants inhabit some of the frailest, most tenuous ecosystems on Earth: *small regions held in sensitive balance whose duration is measured in geological time. *Over the course of some 80 million years they have become rare and polished jewels of an evolution that has perfected their form into function, in a process so long and vast we cannot begin to sense it. *Some plant species are meant to endure – not so for the Carnivorous plants - evolution itself places pressures on these systems, not to make mention of the heavy foot of man. *They are a jeweled instant, and then they will be gone. *Some are gone already. *For many the range is shrinking.
I doubt if the range of any are expanding, except in one instance, they are growing and expanding in personal collections and herbariums. *As more and more men and women of intellect and heart come to understand the plight of biodiversity, there comes a sense
of the necessity to preserve what might other wise be wasted: a miracle of evolution.
This is why I grow them. *Is this why you grow them too?
I remember when I first started out in this hobby. *It was in 1961, after reading the article in the May edition of the National Geographic written by Paul A. Zahl. *I was swept away by the beauty of these plants! *Seeing photographs of the author adding plants to an outdoor terrarium made me long to be in his shoes. *I found the name of the company that had provided the plants to the author, ordered a few, and began my lifelong passion of collecting and growing Carnivorous Plants. *I read every scrap of literature I could find on the subject, and became aware of the great diversity shown by these species, and I wanted to grow them all. *I was a bitten and smitten newbie, and friends, those teeth are still deep into my soul!
In days of yore, there were very few publications dealing with these plants. *When I discovered the International Carnivorous Plant Society, I joined immediately. *In their newsletter I found listings of various nurseries, and I began my quest to grow as many of these forms as possible, with various degrees of success. *Back in those early days of my passion, the plants were rare and very often expensive. *I wrote to anyone in the CPN that posted an address. *There was no email, and snail mail could take half of forever to reach the distant corners of the Earth, but it did not deter me. *I wrote, and made contacts.
One thing that plant scarcity and expense generates is a lack of willingness to share with those who were just starting out. *No one wanted to waste rare material on a beginner. *As a “newbie” I was often disappointed when a long sought for plant was refused to me. *They were valuable commodities, produced by very few growers, and supply and demand made them even more valuable as items of barter. *In order to get rare plants, you had to have rare plants, and I did not. *It was a “Catch 22”.
I decided back then that I would do everything I could to share MY plants when the time came. *
Back then, I struck some friendships with CP notables who have maintained their passion for decades, and have since gone on to make huge contributions to CP society. *Birds of a feather flock together, and slowly as I grew up, I began to realize some of my dreams thanks to help from many friends all over the world whom I had managed to impress with my desire to grow these plants. *But back then they too were new to the art of growing.
Once I had these contacts, the road was easier, but not much! *It took over a month to get material from Australia. A letter written in May would bring a reply in July. *I would be lucky to get the plant by September. *The mail was slow, the species in cultivation limited. *The length of shipping time often brought little more than desiccated remains of dreams, and bitter disappointment. *Adding 5 species to my collection in years worth of searching was doing well!
The advent of the internet has changed all that. *By this tool, instantaneous communication is now available to the most remote areas that were once unreachable: and as growers share habitat information and plants, once rare species are finding their way into more and more collections. *The plants are spreading in ever widening circles at last!
This has stimulated an increased interest in these plants, and the desire to grow them by an ever growing and aware society has also presented a profit margin, and a proliferation of capitalism has been generated to take advantage of this increased consumerism.
One thing I noticed on my return to cultivation as an increased awareness of Cp society members regarding the peril of many of these species. *Gone were the early days of elitism, and the desire to maintain the longest and most exclusive grow lists. *Something was happening: a new consciousness had sprung up based on a powerful love of these plants, and a desire to share was taking precedence over using the plants as a vehicle for self profit. *It used to be nurseries that were most responsible for popularizing these plants. *Now, this task has been taken up by dedicated individuals: like you, and it is love, not profit that is the prime motivation.
I used to think early on in my CP career that it would be a wonderful thing if people made their plants and seeds available to each other out of the love for these plants, and the joy in sharing with others, vs. the motivations of profit and ego.. *What if gifts were the norm, rather than the exception? *Imagine how the plants would increase in collections, and the increase could continue to spread exponentially. *This would mean more chances for all to acquire plants at no expense. *It would be a beautiful thing if those that had the desire, the space, and the skills to grow these plants could simply ask for them or for the seed that they produce, and receive them! *Our society is geared toward consumerism, and it is precisely this motivation that has placed many species in peril as their habitats are encroached on to fill our needs. *Generosity and mutual love is something to weight the scales in the other direction.
*Some growers still hesitate to freely (or at slight expense to themselves) give away plants and seeds, placing a value on this material based on what it might bring from other growers. *This is the Old School of thinking. * Consider for a moment the possibility that not everything needs to have a price, and that these organic beings that we form relationships with in the process of raising them need not be commodities! *The bottom line doesn’t always have to be profit. *There are greater goals, and higher ends.
*In a generous world there would be no need to hold back the giving in order to get. The “getting” would come as freely and as easily as the “giving”. *Which of you don’t believe that what goes around comes around? * If your desire is to acquire more plants, by demonstrating generosity to each other, you will find that you will gain many times over from friends, what you would otherwise get from a “customer” by reinvesting the profit made by selling them outright. *
You can help make this pretty picture a reality, by freely and openly sharing amongst yourselves. *Let it be more a matter of giving than trading. * Seeds are not difficult to produce, and they are the real proof of good cultivation and a demonstration of the mastery of this art we are practicing.
*Let’s face it: we grow a plant, and it either prospers, providing seed and new plants, or it declines, and in a little while is gone from our collections. * If, in your generosity you place this plant in 10 others hands, which of these hands would refuse to return to you what you freely gave? *For the small cost of a postage stamp, you can give to another grower excitement and joy, provide insurance against your own possible loss of a species, demonstrate to people you may never meet that there really is a basic goodness in mankind. *I think that this is worth a stamp! *This is what community is about, and in many instances throughout life, what we have lost. *Here is an opportunity to get it back, to put love above money for once. *The plants so common to you may make dreams come true for others and they will thank you, and possibly, if not certainly, make your dreams come true as well. *The more freely you give, the more freely you will get.
The only other thing to keep in mind is not to accept what you cannot hope to preserve: some species are rare due to the difficulty in their culture, the length of time it takes to produce them, or from the cost of providing a specialized environment. *These plants should go to those best able to reproduce them for future sharing. *With enough successes, they will no longer be “rare”. * In order to get a rare species, you should be able to demonstrate that you are capable of this preservation and increase, and be honest with yourself about it. *It is one thing to want to grow a species, and another to really be able to do it. *The giver of such material will know straightaway if you have these skills in place. *Show the community that you have done the homework, have the right conditions, and demonstrate the desire to learn, and you will be a likely candidate to receive it.
My main focus in CP is to distribute as many plants as I can, free of charge, in my remaining lifetime. *I believe that it will only be in the hands of good growers that the plants will survive into the next century for our grandchildren's grandchildren to be able to enjoy. *I believe that generosity and the free sharing of plants and knowledge is the best insurance for this.
I want to raise an army of growers who want to Steward these plants: the ones that feel the plants "call". * I believe with all my heart that the cycle of sharing and education as to how best to grow these species will also spread, as others who feel the same way also in turn take up the work - and they are: as evidenced by the creation of more CP Societies like this one, and by the proliferation of CP Forums all over the world. *This is the Golden Age of the CP growers.
It is my contention that I can give away a lot more plants than I can sell, and if only 5 percent of those who try to grow them stick with it throughout their life, then I will have been repaid for my expenses in the way that is most important to me, and the rolling ball will stay rolling, as new generations of growers share both their plants, skills and this ethic of sharing.
I want these plants to remain with us as something real and touchable, not just images on a screen, and wishful thinking in the generations to come. *I need your help!
I could sell those plants, and Lord knows I could use the money, but it is more important to see them well placed with skilled growers who will be able to reproduce and spread them. *Those people are priceless to me! *It's also important that all who do have them make the effort to 1) teach the skills needed to cultivate them to others, and 2) also freely share this material and knowledge in turn, and 3) promote the sharing ethic. * This starts a dynamic and ongoing cycle, and the result is literally a shower of free plants for anyone with the heart to grow them. *This is my old dream which is becoming more and more real, and I am working hard to make it even more real! *We can make a difference in this one thing, if we all pull together and kick money out of the equation.
I despise the head set that attempts to market rare plants with prices designed to insure that the supply remains short, so that prices and profits may continue to remain high. This attitude needs to stop, because the plants are diminishing in habitat. *"Progress" is eroding them. *Populations vanish yearly, and their biodiversity is lost forever unless someone somewhere has the plant under cultivation. *For example, Drosera occidentalis var Australis "Warriup Form" is no longer to be found in habitat (Mann, Pers. Comm., 2003). *All that stands between it and its extinction is the love of good men and women for this small plant, and their dedication in maintaining it, and spreading of it
to others of similar heart.
There are many fine and reputable nurserymen who sell these plants for their living. There are expenses in such a large scale operation, and in these cases profit is both needed and desirable. *Such nurseries go a long ways in promoting this hobby, and introduce beginners to the craft where hopefully they will be able to learn to successfully grow these plants without having to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. *Such nurseries produce and distribute on a scale private growers can never hope to achieve. *There is a difference however, between a reasonable expense of production and flat out cutting the heart out of those who love these species, for being willing to take on the noble work of preserving them! *I want to see this headset crumble into the extinction that will befall the plants if this type of consciousness prevails.
“Newbies” are the hope of the future: they are the true substrate that these plants will proliferate in. *Embrace them, as I do, and invest your time and material on these most worthy members of our CP society. *Your children’s children will thank you for picking up the check, and for opening up your hearts and seed boxes: They will harvest what you sow.
As a postscript it was brought to my attention that my cultivar Drosera 'Tamlin' was auctioned on the Ebay block recently:
So I have produced yet another "rare plant" for the merchants to profit from! How ironic. At first I was excited that it was considered so valuable, and later disappointed when I realized my intended gift to prosterity now carried a hefty price tag.
I lost my all my plants, but someone named Andrew Beauchamp returned seed to me today and it has been sown! I plan on mass distributing this pretty plant to all I can convince to grow it. Updates as they happen!