Thursday, December 24, 2015

Donate to assess carnivorous plants, get free gemmae

Happy holidays everyone! I hope everything is going well with you, your family, and especially your plants. I've got a chance for you to add something new to your collection, and do a good deed for the season at the same time!

IUCN Red List appeal photo with a sweet flytrap.
Look at that fly man. Makes me want to donate some money.
The IUCN Red List is trying to assess the vulnerability of all carnivorous plant species. Naturally this is a huge effort, and the first step is this fundraiser – $25,000 to hold an initial 5-day workshop to create a baseline assessment for many species, and then subsequent goals to do field assessments across the world. This fundraiser has been active for a couple months and is only at 41%. HOWEVER, very often these fundraisers get a huge portion of their funding right at the end. So let's make it happen!

Earlier today I donated $25 to the effort. This is after having seen the appeals over and over. I now want to offer an additional incentive to you all to donate. If you donate $10 or more to this fund drive, I'll send you a free pack of pygmy sundew gemmae! Just email me a screenshot of your thank you screen (or message Sundews Etc. on Facebook) and I'll let you know what I have available! U.S. shipping only, alas.

Drosera sargentii with gemmae.
These Drosera sargentii have recently gone absolutely nuts with gemmae.
There are lots of threats to carnivorous plants around the world. Pygmy sundews often have a very small native range, and many species could potentially be wiped out by development projects. Which ones are at highest risk? We don't know! Hopefully this assessment will help us find out.

Dionaea muscipula 'Justina Davis'.
Dionaea muscipula 'Justina Davis' is a rare cultivar, but that's another issue entirely.
The iconic Venus flytrap is one of the most mass-produced carnivorous plants in the world, and yet is under extreme pressure from poaching. North Carolina has recently cracked down on the wild collection of flytraps, but they're still under threat. Are there other places where better enforcement or more robust laws could help protect plants? Probably! Maybe this list can help us identify them.

Drosera madagascariensis.
These plants need your help! And a repotting.
Did you know that Drosera madagascariensis is extensively wild-collected in Madagascar for export? Most of the collection is done by local people to supply the natural medicine and cosmetics trade. Could there be ways to work with local people to build sustainable industries around their carnivorous plants? Sure! But we need to identify the problems before we can start working on the solutions.

I love pygmy sundews. I want everyone to grow them. I also want to be able to visit some of my favorite carnivorous plant species in the wild, to appreciate them in their unique habitats, and to gain insight by seeing their place in the broader ecological picture. Please donate in the next week so that we can take the first step to protecting these astonishing plants. If all you can spare is a couple bucks it will make a difference. And I've got all these gemmae sitting around after all!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I don't understand large Utricularia

I feel like I'm pretty good at growing the small, terrestrial Utricularia. That's sort of like saying you're good at playing Candyland, but bear with me. The larger species though, they are a bit odd.

I've got a couple new leaves coming up on Utricularia humboldtii.

Utricularia humboldtii.
Utric "leaves" are so funny and weird.
This is an odd species that I've been growing for around a year now. It put on a couple of leaves last spring, but since has sort of just been holding steady. Not sure what it needs – maybe more water? Brighter light? Possibly nutrients? No idea. It's found at quite high elevations in Brazil, so cool temperatures are definitely important.

Another member of Section Orchidioides I've been growing for a bit less than a year is Utricularia cornigera, which has also been known as Utricularia reniformis 'Big Sister'.

Utricularia cornigera.
I hope the additional water helps this guy get back into gear.
I know why this one has been stalled out. It had been sharing a tray with a large Drosera 'Marston Dragon' that had a bunch of Selaginella and ferns that were very thirsty. That tray goes dry all the time, and that is definitely not what this plant wants. I've recently moved it to a much wetter tray that hosts a number of other utrics, so hopefully it'll get better soon.

Last year I had really good success with Utricularia longifolia.

Utricularia longifolia.
I tend to spill a bit when I'm watering this plant.
It sent up two big flower stalks and had a nice bloom show going on, but it also contracted a nasty case of aphids on the flowers, and that definitely set it back. The yellow and brown leaves are from last year. This year's growth is smaller, but that could be temperature. I should just put this in an enormous pot to see how big it can get hahahah.

Finally, my other plant from Section Foliosa is Utricularia calycifida.

Utricularia calycifida.
I feel like I should separate this guy out and see how many rosettes there are.
I got a very nice, long bloom show from this guy, but it hasn't sent up any new scapes in a few months. I may try potting it in long-fiber Sphagnum rather than the peat:sand mix that I'm using now. Maybe the warmer weather will kick it into gear too. Fertilizer? Who knows.

Utrics are fun. Very enigmatic plants.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brief, random updates

There are a number of neat things going on in my collection right now, but nothing that I was really able to tie all together to make a nice thematic post. So this is just some show-and-tell I guess.

It's still pygmy season, and Drosera roseana is stepping up to the plate with some fine gemmae. 

Drosera roseana with gemmae.
Pygmies for everyone!
I definitely need to harvest and re-sow this species, since a number of the plants have pooped out over the course of this season. It's one of the prettiest pygmies I think, but it's definitely a case of a plant burning too bright for its own good.

I think Utricularia lateriflora is my new favorite utric species.

Utricularia lateriflora.
There aren't many carnivores with that intense of a purple color.
Look at that color! It's a really deep, intense purple with a cute white spot. Wonderful little plant!

There's also some nice coloration on this little Pinguicula gypsicola × moctezumae plantlet.

Pinguicula gypsicola × moctezumae.
Good job little ping!
Anne gave me a leaf from her plant a couple months ago and it's developing nicely. Hope it keeps that rosy copper color.

Finally, Byblis liniflora continues to wow everyone. It's my girlfriend's favorite plant right now.

Byblis liniflora.
What a great plant. Looks amazing.
I wish I'd started growing this species earlier, it's really lovely. Very difficult to photograph though, since it's mostly whitish dew. It still hasn't set any seed for me and I'm not sure why though. I should really try actively selfing it soon. Or maybe cross-pollinating between plants, since they are different clones. We'll see!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Grower Interview: David Flocken

This is part of a series of conversations with other growers about their experiences growing carnivorous plants. It's always useful to see how someone else does things! The full series can be read here, or by grower at the Series page.

David Flocken is a sundew grower and Drosera capensis enthusiast living in Utah. We've chatted about plants on Facebook and elsewhere, so we decided to do a Grower Interview for the blog, the first in a while. Hopefully we'll get back to doing these a bit more regularly!

Sundews Etc.     So Dave, thanks for sitting down for an interview.
SE     I'm glad we could finally work out the logistics!

David Flocken     No problem, thanks for having me I'm pretty excited.  
DF     And yeah we were all over the place there for a minute.  

SE     We first chatted on TerraForums a bit ago about Drosera capensis, why don't you talk about what you're doing with that species right off the bat.  

DF     The first thing I'd like to say about the species Drosera capensis is that it's one of the most overlooked species in the hobby. However, to me, the plant continues to interest me all these years later.

SE     It's a wonderful plant.  

DF     Drosera capensis, in its many growth forms, varieties, unofficial cultivars has a very Dionaea-esque feel. Right now I'm trying to acquire as many types as possible, but have been particularly enamored with a recently discovered variety "Big Pink."

Drosera capensis "Big Pink"
D. capensis "Big Pink" as grown by David Flocken.
SE     That's a hybrid of the 'Albino' cultivar with the red form, right?  

DF     Yes, that's the conclusion a few growers and myself have come to, though it's not completely confirmed. We'll have to sort that out with manual and purposeful hybridizing of capensis 'Albino' and the "All red" plants – presumably all true red forms originate from Gifberg South Africa.  
DF     And the "Alba" is a variety which occurred and only occurs in cultivation.  

SE     I've been researching the all-red variety and yes, all the full-red plants in cultivation come from Gifberg, and were collected by Eric Green.

DF     "Big Pink" differs from "Red" in it's growth rate and a lowered ability to produce anthocyanin in the leaves, this causes a blotchy or oftentimes "pink" coloration.  

SE     That sounds pretty cool. How many different forms of D. capensis are you growing currently?  

DF     Currently I'm growing "Wideleaf", "Bainskloof", "Alba", "Typical", "Narrowleaf", "Big Pink", and "Red" but at least 10 more varieties are sitting idle as seed in my fridge, along with many, many thousands of typical seeds.  

SE     Cool. What sort of goal do you have in mind with this research, if any?  

DF     Well for one, I hope to describe and officially differentiate the many unofficial statuses of these plants. Glean a new variety from typical seeds (just through brute force of growing many and looking for good traits)
DF     I hope to make interesting crosses, one I'm working on right now is "Big Pink"x"Wideleaf" using two of my most beautiful specimen plants.  

SE     That sounds like a lot of fun.  
SE     What's your growing setup like?  

DF     Well I have my outdoor grow which rests idly in dormancy in our unheated garage, whilst my indoor setup is downstairs; which I primarily use to grow Drosera and Cephalotus.  
DF     We have a cool basement, which I use to my advantage. The grow chambers can get rather hot as they are essentially 4 foot t8 lights resting over various plastic and glass terrariums.  
DF     I use reflective material like mylar and tinfoil to keep in the light, but nothing too special.  

Indoor growing tank with Cephalotus and others.
The Cephalotus grow tank.
SE     I think cool temperatures are often overlooked as a factor for lots of sundews.
SE     There are lots that don't appreciate it hot, especially at night.

DF     I agree, I've noted this in species like capensis, regia, adelae, spatulata. In fact there isn't a single species I can think of aside from burmanii maybe that doesn't dew up more, or color up more, from lower nighttime temperatures.
DF     Across the board carnivorous plants seem to benefit from a cooler resting period.  
DF     What about your pygmys? Do they need that temperature drop? I've always wondered about those guys.

SE     They definitely don't mind it. Certainly if we have a prolonged hot spell there are species that go dormant.
SE     Although I live in the inner Bay Area, so I basically have a tropical highland climate, which is almost cheating for carnivorous plants.
SE     Always cool, but almost never down near freezing at night.  

DF     That's quite the contrast to where I live. We're what you call an arid sub-tundra desert. Right now it's 20 degrees outside, and dropping.
DF     Which leaves me incapable of growing almost any sundew outside in a non-bog environment.  

SE     Yeah that would complicate my growing situation significantly, hahah.
SE     When did you get started growing carnivores?  

DF     Growing up I was always that kid, or that family rather, with the snake or the tarantula. Always looking for that novelty plant at the convenience store.  

SE     Oh, so your family is in to similar stuff.  
SE     That must be nice.

DF     Oh yeah, despite their groans and occasional complaints my family has been extremely supportive throughout my growing career. My dad even gets involved in the building projects from time to time.  
DF     I must have been around 12 or 13 when I first emailed "Sundewman" seeking out help to not kill my lowly Drosera spatulata.

SE     Oh man, Aaron May. What a hero. His site is what got me started too.  

DF     I agree, shout out to Aaron. He's been the reason more than once I was able to re-enter the hobby.  

SE     So you're a sundew guy, like Aaron and I then.

DF     Oh yeah, while interning at Meadowview Biological Research Station, Phil often called me a "Dew-head" always looking for his "Dew-fix" often seeking out his "Daily-dew" and many others I'll not say here.  

SE     Hahahahah that's great.  

DF     And honestly, those little globular beads at the end of those tentacles have gotten me through a lot. They certainly speak to simpler times when I was just starting out in high school.  

SE     How was interning at Meadowview? That must have been awesome for a carnivorous plant enthusiast.

David Flocken in a bog in Virginia.
Dave in Virginia, looking at a clump of Drosera capillaris (not pictured).
 DF     Meadowview was a fantastic opportunity, I worked at the site called Joseph Pines in Northern Virginia. I did restoration work relating to Longleaf pine, and their associated habitats. So I saw some amazing Sarracenia and bog habitat while I was there.
DF     If you're ever in Virginia, both Meadowview's nursery in Fredericksburg and Jospeh Pine's preserve in Disputanta are a must-see.  

SE     I'd love to visit.
SE     A trip to the southeast is definitely on my radar in the next few years.  
SE     What plants do you grow besides your D. capensis collection?

DF     Well after Meadowview, I've become invariably hooked on Sarracenia, particularly flava, give me anything flava. I have a sizable collection of Cephalotus, a few hundred venus flytraps (sigh), and my most recent obsession of germinating and raising Drosophyllum.  
DF     Along with many other South African sundews, I feel capensis is the staple of my collection.

SE     Hahah oh man. That sounds like a lot of plants. How much time do you spend with them in a given week?   

DF     I'd say they get about 4 hours of truly useful care during the week, and seemingly endless (probably 15 overall) of endless tinkering.  

SE     You feed your sundews, right? What do you use?

DF     I have an obsession with feeding my sundews. Sometimes I think the plants secretly hate me for it. I feed them ground freeze dried blood worms.

SE     Do you rehydrate them or grind them, or just apply as-is?  

DF     In the morning I go into the basement and begin feeding. I use the grow lights to wake myself up in the morning and treat a little bit of seasonal depression.  
DF     I tried rehydrating for a while, but that was too much work for the amount of feeding I did.
DF     Then I tried grinding the food and mixing it with water in pipettes which also took too long.

SE     One must always weigh how useful something is against how likely they are to actually do it.  

DF     So now I just grind it up in my palms, and dust it onto the leaves seems to be the fastest method for me if you account the food preparation time.  
DF     Unfortunately I've developed a death-like allergy to the stuff.

SE     Oh no!

DF     The things we do for our plants am I right?  

SE     Absolutely.

DF     Regarding the large amount of feeding, I've noticed a huge amount of growth and speedy development.
DF     So it's not all crazy (I hope). 

SE     Yeah, feeding is a huge factor I've noticed.  
SE     How much does your collection cost you on a monthly basis?  

DF     It's hard to say without accounting for things like energy costs from the lights and mental strain on my family, but I'd say at least 40-50$ a month.
DF     Luckily I can counteract that with small time seed and plant sales.

Cross-pollinating Drosera flowers.
Using sewing string to mark the cross-pollinated flower.
SE     Yeah that's the good move.
SE     Make it all equal out.  
SE     Are there any carnivorous plant societies in your area?

DF     Ah, I knew we'd get to this, and sadly no there are none.  
DF     You'd be hard pressed to find any Utah growers unfortunately.

SE     That's too bad.  
SE     You should take some of your extra flytraps and D. capensis to like farmers' markets and try and entrap people.  

DF     Not a bad idea, who knows what will come of it in the coming years.  

SE     Well, at least there are forums and Facebook and all that.  

DF     I'm glad you mentioned that since forums and online sharing were my upbringing in this hobby.  

SE     We're very fortunate to have the online resources that we do. It makes it a lot easier to get into the hobby and get better at it.  

DF     Yeah, I didn't believe you could grow anything outside in my climate until I consulted the forums. It turns out a desert is just fine for many species like Drosophyllum.

SE     So you have good success with Drosos then? I've been meaning to try that plant.

DF     Being a dew-head, Drosophyllum is a most wondrous plant indeed.  
DF     And so tolerant of the dry and high-altitude conditions here. Even in the dead of summer they're plugging away.

Drosophyllum lusitanicum.
Drosophyllum doing very well in Utah.
SE     That's awesome. I should give that one a try. I keep putting it off.  
SE     Do you have any big goals for your collection in the next year or so?

DF     I'm hoping to work on the space and logistics of my collection coming up. Adding new setups before acquiring new plants has been a challenge I mean to tackle this coming season.

SE     Are you going to donate any seeds during the ICPS Holiday Seed Drive?
DF     Yeah, along with my annual giveaway of Drosera indica seeds, I hope to send them a couple thousand. Hopefully they don't have too many at the moment.

SE     It never hurts to donate! I'll be rounding up a lot of my seed as well.

DF     Sounds like you already have the burmanii covered? I'll have to round up some capensis seeds as well!

SE     Send whatever you can spare I reckon!
SE     Finally, before I let you go, I seem to remember that there was talk of you starting a blog sometime in the near future...  

DF     Oh, the blog! Your site, and the Carnivore Girl have all got me excited about making my own blog.
DF     Something that looks really nice where I can post and keep track of my random plant activities.

SE     You should do it, blogging is great.
SE     It's great to be able to search your old posts and look through your old pictures.

DF     Oh yeah, I feel it's a better place for that than forums. And like your site it's a great place to get some attention towards sales and trades. I'm sure your blog has accelerated your hobby to new levels.
DF     I hope to do the same with mine which will be called "Dave's Dews."

SE     It certainly makes me keep trying new stuff and documenting it!
SE     Awesome, let me know if/when that gets started, and I'll share it on the blog.  

DF     Thank you I certainly will. I expect it will be up an running by this coming year 2016.  

SE     Great.
SE     Thanks for doing an interview! Any last words of wisdom for fellow growers?

DF     Thanks so much for having me!  
DF     To the CP community I'd just say I love you guys, a lot of you don't know it but you've helped me through so much. I also hope you'll all join me in the quest (shenanigans?) to revive Drosera capensis to the status it deserves.

SE     Amen to that. Thanks Dave.

Drosera regia, Cephalotus follicularis, Darlingtonia californica, and Drosera spatulata grown indoors.
Nice mix of species in Dave's indoor growing area.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Layout of my indoor growing area

Before we get started on the post – check out the ICPS Holiday Seed Bank Drive on Facebook. Have you collected your seed to donate yet? Join the Facebook event for more information! Use the hashtag #ICPSHolidaySeedDrive to share pictures of the seed you're donating.

I've had a few people ask me for pictures of my setup in recent months and I've held off on posting any because it was a real mess. Distilled water jugs and old shipping boxes everywhere, supplies scattered everywhere – it was pretty embarrassing. Yesterday, however, I bit the bullet and tidied it all up, so here we are!

Growspace 2.0
Home sweet home.
Growspace 1.0
The spot on the right is for lower-light plants.
I grow my sundews, pings, and utrics under lights in my garage. I live in the inner Bay Area, so temperatures are always pretty mild, and even during heat waves there's generally a nice night-time temperature drop in the evenings to the 50s or 60s. My garage is consistently the coolest room in the house during summer, which is good, since pretty much everything I grow looks better when it's cool. I use steel wire shelves from the Home Depot for 2 of my growing areas, and a homemade frame on an old table for the other. There's about 6 sq. feet of growing space under each set of lights.

Fluorescent lights.
My camera did not enjoy taking this photo.
I use T8 fluorescent bulbs as my light source, using a common shop-light fixture. I covered the reasons for this choice more extensively in my Cultivation Guide: Light part 2, but the basics are that T8 bulbs are nicely-situated on the efficiency/attractiveness/cost/ease of sourcing matrix. T5s are more efficient, but quite a bit more expensive. LEDs are probably going to be the the obvious choice in the future, but for right now fixtures are expensive, hard to find, and sometimes of dubious use for plants. The main problem with fluoros is that they degrade fairly quickly. I need to replace quite a few bulbs this upcoming year.

My light intensity may be higher than necessary, but this won't hurt the plants. It ends up being about 2500 lumens per square foot of growing space. I could do better if I used reflective material on some of the sides, but that makes it harder to access my plants, which is part of the reason I haven't done so yet. I think anything about 2000 lumens/sq. ft. is probably a very good amount of light.

Timer and power strip.
Milk crates: natures building blocks.
To control my lights I use a very basic analog timer attached to a power strip. As you can see, I've already maxed out this power strip, so if I want to get any more lights out here I'll have to figure something out. I can adjust the photoperiod by moving the pins on the timer. Right now it's at 12 hours per day. I think I'll drop it to 11 soon and then leave it for winter.

Broken tray full of pygmies.
On the plus side, the pygmies are looking great.
For trays I use Sterilite containers of various sizes. They actually make for a fairly efficient use of space, but there are two main problems. First, as you can see in the above photo, they degrade quite quickly under high UV light. This tray has only been in use for a year and is falling apart. I keep putting off replacing it, and I know I'm going to regret it. The second problem is the trays are significantly taller than the pots I use, which can make it a little less nice trying to look at my plants. I'm still looking around for a better solution. The standard nursery trays aren't a great fit because of the dimensions of my growspaces. We'll see.

The most important aspect of my growing areas is that they are low-maintenance. The garage is great, because I don't have to worry about spilling water or anything like that. I'm also fortunate that I live in a mild, relatively humid climate (usually between 20% and 70% humidity), and I also don't grow any very finicky plants. That's the real trick.

Drosera sessilifolia flowers.
Apparently Drosera sessilifolia flowers open early in the morning, which is why I never catch them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Announcing the ICPS Holiday Seed Drive!

I was meeting with some fellow members of the BACPS recently and we got to talking about the ICPS Seed Bank. The seed bank, if you are unaware, is a resource for ICPS members looking to grow carnivorous plants from seed. It's supported by members' seed donations, and lately it's been looking a little bit less awesome than it has in the past. So – along with my fellow carnivorous plant bloggers Maria and Natch – we decided to run a holiday seed drive to get it nice and stocked for the new year!

Drosera burmannii flower stalks and seed.
The halcyon days of having infinite Drosera burmannii seed...
There's lots of info on the Seed Bank portion of the ICPS site, such as:
When I was first starting out, these articles helped me figure out how to deal with my own seed (I even made a post about it), so you should read them even if you don't have anything to donate. And if you do, what are you waiting for?

Drosera natalensis seedlings.
I've always enjoyed growing from seed. It's really fun if you've never tried it!
To make it a little easier, here are some supplies that I've come to like using for seed:

Interfolded wax paper sheets

These are much more convenient that your standard wax paper roll, since they don't curl at the edges. Mine are 10" × 10 3/4", so I basically just cut them in half 4 times to get 16 squares for envelopes. The ones I linked are 12" × 10 3/4", but should still be very easy to use.

#1 coin envelopes

I got tired of folding envelopes pretty quickly, and these were not expensive. I bought 250 at Staples for like $10, but if you want to never run out, that listing I linked is 1500 envelopes for $15.

Drosera burmannii seed in a packet.
Don't sneeze around your sundew seed.
What will I be donating? I need to look through my stock of stuff, but definitely Drosera burmannii Humpty Doo, Drosera anglica CA × HI, some Drosera 'Emerald's Envy', and probably some Drosera oblanceolata. What should you donate? Drosera, Sarracenia, Dionaea, Byblis, Drosophyllum, and Cephalotus all have the longest-lasting seed. However, you better believe that if you have Pinguicula, Utricularia, or Nepenthes seed it will get snapped right up and really appreciated by the community! I'm really hoping to see some of the rarer Byblis come out of this drive, as well as maybe some South American sundews.

The address to donate is
International Carnivorous Plant Society
Seed Bank
2121 N. California Blvd., Suite 290
Walnut Creek, CA 94596-7351
If you decided to donate, post on the Facebook event page, or use the hashtag #ICPSHolidaySeedDrive to share pictures of yourself or your piles of seed on Instagram or Twitter or whatever. And if you're not a member, don't forget to join the ICPS! It's a steal at $30/year, gets you access to the seed bank along with quarterly full-color newsletters, and is one of the most important groups in the world for carnivorous plant information and resources. Happy holidays, everyone!

Weird windowbox thing of D. capensis seedlings.