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Thread: Article in the Chicago Tribune

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    abcat1993's Avatar
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    Article in the Chicago Tribune

    I saw somewhere on this site that somebody was gathering info for an article in the Tribune, and it just came out today. It was front page in the gardening section, the entire page, with pretty accurate info.
    Anyone else see this?

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    herenorthere's Avatar
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    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    We have to register?

    Aww man.

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    Admin- I'm growing CPs in the Desert of Tucson, Az. adnedarn's Avatar
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    I saw it too. In the article's "Learn More" section, it lists Terra Forums.

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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    Plant traps
    Bug-eating carnivores captivate hobbyists

    By Beth Botts
    Tribune staff writer
    Published April 15, 2007

    A delicate fungus gnat, flitting through Emilie Pulver's Hyde Park living room, lands innocently on a glistening droplet clinging to a slender reddish hair on the tendril of a sundew.

    And struggles in the sticky goo. And dies. And is slowly digested.




    Kingdom Plantae, 1. Kingdom Animalia, 0.

    The sundew (Drosera binata) is one of an odd assortment of plants that fascinate hobbyists and biologists because they do something that seems to turn the food chain upside down: They eat insects.

    The weirdness of it all is what first attracts many of the hobbyists who fill terrariums and bog gardens with these strange forms. But for the plants, "it's a sensible thing to do," says Barry Rice, author of "Growing Carnivorous Plants" (Timber Press, 224 pages, $39.95) and of a riveting Web site on the subject ( www.sarracenia.com/faq.html ). "Carnivorous plants are carnivorous because it works in some habitats."

    These plants evolved mainly in bogs so acidic that nutrients were unavailable to their roots. So instead, Rice says, "they found a way to get nutrients by snapping them out of the air."

    The snapping plant that comes first to mind is the Venus flytrap, whose clamshell leaves close in response to the wiggling touch of an insect. Often bought cheaply in drugstores and killed by owners who try to feed them hamburger or make them snap too often, Venus flytraps inspired the imaginary Audrey of the "Little Shop of Horrors" movies.

    But that isn't the only way to trap a bug. The leaves of carnivorous plants are marvels of engineering, many sculpturally striking or delicately elegant. Aquatic bladderworts have valves that open to suck in water bugs. Other plants are sticky like flypaper, or dangle jewel-like beads of glue, like the sundews that Chris Lubben grows in his basement in Aroma Park, near Kankakee. "They are sticky and shiny and sparkly," he says.

    Some plants have "lobster traps," Rice says, which insects can enter but can't figure out how to escape. Pitcher plants depend on gravity to deliver insects to their vats of digestive liquid, but keep the bugs from climbing out by having slippery interior walls or downward-facing spiky hairs. Some pitcher plants, Pulver says, have evolved cooperative relationships with other animals, even tiny frogs, which eat the trapped insects and then fertilize the plant with their excrement.

    The eeww! factor is clearly an attraction for many hobbyists, at least at first. "It seems to appeal to guys," says Pulver. Rice, who grew up in Oak Park, says he was first snared by carnivorous plants as a teenager, when, while waiting for a job interview at Frank's nursery, he poked a Venus flytrap with a pencil and it closed. "I was enthralled," he said.

    He set out to learn about the culture and biology of the plants, and eventually it led him to abandon a planned career in astrophysics to become a conservation ecologist for the Nature Conservancy.

    For Pulver, she says, the attraction of the tropical pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts and sticky rosettes of pinguicula she grows under lights in her apartment is their botany and ecology, the way that species all over the world have separately evolved varying tactics to implement the same insect-eating strategy for surviving under highly adverse conditions.

    She also enjoys the challenge of growing plants that are native to a very narrow range of circumstances. She grows plants from seed she buys or trades for over the Internet and even persuades some of them to bloom.

    Carnivorous plants certainly are a conversation starter in the living room and fascinating for Lubben's young son and step-grandkids.

    But be sure to buy cultivated plants from reputable dealers, because, as with many plants, some species of carnivores are threatened as their native habitats are destroyed. "In some cases, it's down to individual plants," Rice says.

    We'd hate to see the end of plants that have fought so hard to survive.

    - - -

    How to grow them

    Carnivorous plants are evolved for an unusual environment and have some special requirements. But many people successfully grow them indoors. Here are the conditions they like.

    Artificial light: Aroma Park grower Chris Lubben and Hyde Park indoor gardener Emilie Pulver use common fluorescent shop lights, just a few inches from the plants.



    Page 2:


    Acid, barren soil: A mix of peat moss and sand is good, Rice says. And don't bother repotting. "They don't have much of a root system," he says.

    High humidity: They are bog plants. Pulver grows hers in dishpans or terrariums, holding in the moisture with plastic dry-cleaning bags.

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    Distilled water: Not tap water or spring water; use water that is labeled "distilled" or "purified by reverse osmosis." Anything else contains minerals that will be bad for the plants.

    No fertilizer: Don't add any. And don't feed them hamburger, bacon or cat food.

    No overfeeding: At most, "one bug per week," says Rice. More will harm a plant.

    - - -

    Try these plants

    Here are three carnivorous plants that would be good for a beginner to try, according to author Barry Rice.

    Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula): This is the iconic carnivorous plant and the one you are most likely to find for sale cheaply in garden centers, big-box stores or even drugstores. It has clamshell leaves that close when an insect touches the interior trigger hairs. Each leaf can snap only three to five times and must not be triggered more than once a week. Rice suggests feeding it a small piece of the steamed crickets you can buy at pet stores. After you drop the piece in, very gently squeeze the closed trap so the plant will think the insect is alive and wiggling. Otherwise, it will open up again without digesting it.

    Dionaea muscipula is a threatened species in its native habitat in the southeastern United States.

    Cape sundew (Drosera capensis): Native to the Cape Province of South Africa, this plant unfurls long bottlebrush leaves whose hairs are jeweled with drops of sticky insect-catching glue.

    Purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea): A bulbous tube full of digestive juices traps bugs that fall in. The plant is native to eastern North America and is the provincial flower of Newfoundland.

    - - -

    Learn more

    Here are other some sources for more information on and sources for buying carnivorous plants:

    Barry Rice's carnivorous plants FAQ, www.sarracenia.com/faq.html . Start here. It's a stitch.

    "Growing Carnivorous Plants" by Barry Rice (Timber Press, 224 pages, $39.95)

    "The Savage Garden " by Peter D'Amato (Ten Speed Press, 314 pages, $24.95)

    The International Carnivorous Plants Society, www.carnivorousplants.org , fosters conservation and has much how-to information on its Web site.

    Terra Forums, online carnivorous plants discussion groups, www.terraforums.com

    California Carnivores, mail-order nursery in Sevastopol, Calif., 707-824-0433, www.********************.com

    Geimer Greenhouse, Illinois Highway 53 north of Lake Cook Road, Long Grove, 847-358-6363, expects new shipments of pitcher plants, sundews and Venus flytraps in May.

    Jamaican Gardens, 8509 Frontage Rd., Morton Grove, 847-967-9360, expects shipments of Venus flytraps, sundews and pitcher plants by the end of April.

    -- Beth Botts



    Taken from the Chicago Tribune.

  7. #7
    Illinois droseraguy's Avatar
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    Cool, although I thought she would notify me before printing ! Now I gotta go buy yesterdays paper. Who is that Barry guy ?? Seems to get alot of press !
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    So we're not ever supposed to repot our plants??

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