My husband Tom (who normally blogs at Bikejuju) continues our carnivorous plant adventures:
Lyanda recently described our semi-tongue-in-cheek experiments with using a Venus fly trap to catch fruit flies. As at least one commenter rightly pointed out, however, sundews (plants in the Drosera family) are much more suited to the task, covered as they are with rows of sticky little fly-attracting mucilage droplets.
This weekend Claire and I were headed past Seattle’s Indoor Sun Shoppe, where they are mad for carnivorous plants, so we stopped in to pick up a sundew for some additional experimentation. While we were there Claire also bought a pitcher plant, completing our sample collection of the triumvirate of classic carnivorous plants: Venus fly trap, sundew, and pitcher plant. (Though as it turns out, there are more than 600 carnivorous plants across a dozen genera – who knew?! Time to start shopping for a butterwort… )
In third grade Claire had done a wonderful school project that included learning about and drawing these plants, but she had never seen most of them in person, and was fascinated by all the varieties the shop had on display. The sundew she picked is a lovely Drosera Adelae. And the pitcher plant is labeled a Sarracenia Leucophylla – though it’s likely a hybrid; true Leucophyllia, a native of the US gulf coast, are supposed to have very white pitchers. (Both our plants were cultivated by Courting Frogs Nursery in Stanwood, Washington).
Of the three, the sundew is indeed best suited to catching fruit flies, which have continued their little red-eyed reproductive frenzy in our food scraps bin. Per the shop’s instructions, all three plants have been living on a sunny windowsill, but when I parked the sundew near the kitchen scraps, several of the circling fruit flies got promptly snagged in its sticky drops of mucilage.
I confess, annoying as the fruit flies are, it did tug at my heartstrings just a little bit to watch through my macro lens as this little guy struggle against the sticky predicament in which he found himself. Fruit flies don’t seem to be quite large enough to trigger the sundew’s movement response, in which they will actually wrap a fly in their sticky protrusions, so this guy just gradually struggled himself into more and more of a sticky bind.
Our carnivorous trio has not exactly brought our fruit flies under control, but they have been fun to learn about with Claire. Did you know that sundews (the genus Drosera) are a large family with over 180 plants, examples of which can be found almost everywhere in the world? Or that they need bright sunlight because they are so covered with fly-trapping appendages that they are weak photosynthesizers? Or that the sticky stuff is mucilage, like you find in aloe vera, or in okra, or on envelopes?