Saturday, May 31, 2014

Seedlings, plantlets, and failures

You can't win 'em all. One of the things I've learned as I've begun collecting plants is that sometimes they die and that's just that. I've got a Drosera sp. Lantau Island right now that is almost certainly not going to make it. Alas. I took some leaf cuttings from Drosera 'Marston Dragon' some time ago and almost none of them have survived the transfer from water to media. That sucks! And check out these flower stalk cuttings from the same plant:

Withered Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' flower stalk cuttings.
Withered flower stalks – a grim sight.
I'd heard that flower stalks were the best cuttings you could take. These are brown and shriveled with no sign of life, despite being in soggy wet media with a humidity cover. Well actually there's a bit of life – the pollen from the flower buds has spawned a bit of algae. Hooray! Maybe I should have nicked the cuttings with a razor? Luckily the bits that I started in water are starting to bud. I'm going to get them quite large before transferring them to media. Hopefully something will take.

But you don't lose 'em all either! And unless you're a huge doofus, you'll probably win more than you lose, substantially. For example, remember those laggy Drosera capensis 'Albino' seedlings? The infinitesimal ones?

Drosera capensis 'Albino' seedlings.
The first plant to take off often ends up leaps and bounds the biggest.
I've got one very respectable plantlet, and several more trying to catch up. Feeding really does make all the difference in the world when you're sizing up seedlings – I don't worry about over-feeding the tiny plantlets, since the new growth they produce is almost always more robust than the mold that may result from over-feeding.

I've also got a good crop of Drosera natalensis seedlings that I started a few weeks ago with seed I traded with Natch.

Drosera natalensis seedlings.
Drosera natalensis should be a fairly charming rosetted South African sundew.
I've started hardening these little dudes off (i.e. slowly cutting holes in the humidity tent to acclimate them to lower humidity conditions) so that soon I'll be able to start feeding. Once you start feeding things really take off.

Remember that Drosera prolifera flower stalk that started a plantlet in the tray water? I dealt with it in sort of a funny way.

Drosera prolifera plantlet from flower stalk.
Some people say lazy fix, I say elegant, resource-conscious solution.
I just bent the stalk back and planted the plantlet in the mother plant's pot. If they start to crowd each other it'll be easy to separate, and now at least it can start developing a root system.

Finally, remember how I observed in my last post that it was lucky that all those Drosera capensis seeds fell in the D. capensis pot rather than any others? Yeah, about that...

Drosera capillaris with Drosera capensis weedlings.
That mis-colored patch of media is from where I removed the last D. capensis hitchhiker that lived in this pot.
Look closely – my Drosera capillaris has some company. Well, I'd been planning on separating/repotting it anyway, so I guess this gives me additional incentive.

Glad I have more things living than dying at least.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Every plant person deals with weeds. Usually the weeds are very different from the desirable plants – ask any cactus/agave person what they think about Oxalis, or anyone with acreage in the country about mustard. In the CP hobby there are plenty of mosses which give people more or less trouble, depending on the pot they're invading. There are also carnivorous weeds – plants that are either deliberately included in a collection, or which arrive unexpectedly in a trade, and then begin to travel around into other pots. Weeds make great plants for beginning growers, since by definition weeds hard hard to kill and adaptable to lots of different conditions.

Perhaps the classic CP weed is Drosera capensis (although a couple of terrestrial Utricularia give it a run for its money). D. capensis flowers extensively on long scapes, self-fertilizes, and produces thousands of seeds. Heretofore my D. capensis has produced seed and offsets, but I hadn't caught seedlings popping up unexpectedly. Until a week ago or so.

Drosera capensis surprise seedlings.
Lots of little tiny D. capensis (I think – they could be D. aliciae).
Luckily, this is all in the D. capensis pot. I think the seeds fell out when the stalk got knocked by the lights. I don't plan on feeding these seedlings, so we'll see how quickly they'll grow.

Terrestrial Utricularia make for great weeds, which is why I confine them to their own trays for the most part. While U. bisquamata and U. subulata are probably the most famous Utric weeds (check any Sarracenia pot at a nursery and there's a good chance you'll find some), U. livida is the most vigorous terrestrial Utric I currently grow. In the 2 or 3 months I've been growing it (check out this post from March) it has filled its pot and started blooming like crazy.

Utricularia livida filling the pot.
Look at this beautiful profusion of Utricularia. Such a neat-looking pot.
Utricularia livida flowers.
There are even more stalks coming up. Keeps on blooming!
If I put together a mixed bog you better bet I'll throw a couple U. livida chunks in there, but most of the plants in my collection are in single-species pots, so I like to keep things separate for the time being.

I recently acquired a weedy Ping – Pinguicula lusitanica is a small, self-fertile, freely blooming Pinguicula that apparently likes to travel around a greenhouse. I just got a flower stalk on my biggest plant!

Pinguicula lusitanica with flower stalk.
I now have two Pings, on totally different size scales.
That's always how it starts. These are supposed to be short-lived annuals, going from seed to bloom in a matter of months. Sounds fun!

Drosera brevifolia is a not-dissimilar sundew weed – it's tiny, bloomy, potentially annual (although I've gotten the impression they can last a few seasons with consistently favorable conditions), and cute.

Drosera brevifolia blooming.
The frontmost 'dew already has a 3rd stalk coming up. Good job, little plant.
I'm gonna try harvesting some of this seed soon, so I can re-sow and get a big colony going. Sundews look great in colonies.

Are there any weeds in your collection that you're particularly fond of? Do any give you problems?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Plant trade update, 2 months later

Back in March I set up a trade with a grower in Florida – Drosera capensis, both 'Albino' and typical, as well as some Drosera 'Marston Dragon' root cuttings in exchange for Drosera filiformis Florida All-Red, Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema, and D. binata dichotoma T-Form. Pretty reasonable all 'round, though the plants, as always, looked terrible when freshly shipped. A week later, however, and they were settling in.

It's been just about 2 months since the last update, so let's see how they're doing since then.

Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema
I gave it lots of room in the pot to get as extreme as it wants.
This is Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema, which I will henceforth refer to as "Extrema," since the full name is cumbersome without even being botanically valid. It's doing great! This is the one that wrapped up blooming a couple weeks ago (no I never cut the stalk, though I'm not sure why not). It's got a bunch of big, dewy leaves, great color, and is generally just an awesome plant. It has even had the kindness to divide itself for me.

Drosera binata var. multifida f. extrema, top down.
Check out that color gradient! It's awesome.
I suspect that flowering may have led to division (I'm seeing something like that with my Pinguicula gigantea too), and since that business all wrapped there's been some nice new growth forming too.

The other D. binata plant I got was implied to be the Dichotoma T-Form, though I'm not 100% positive on the issue, and some of the laminae are split, so I guess I'll just refer to it as an unidentified D. binata clone.

Drosera binata clone.
The D. binata complex is really vigorous, from all of my experiences.
This plant has longer petioles and is more upright generally than the previous one, but is doing just as well. It didn't flower (which I don't mind), but was already 2 or 3 separate plants when I received it. There was also a broken root segment that I buried when potting up the new plants, and in the last 2 weeks or so I think, it's sent up new baby growth.

Drosera binata plantlet from root cutting.
Little tiny guy! It's precious.
How cute! And robust! I need to do more D. binata complex root cuttings.

The last plant I received was the one I was most excited about – D. filiformis, the All-Red form from Florida, which is supposed to have very light dormancy requirements. The two plants I received are doing fine, but aren't particularly impressive, especially compared to the D. binata clones.

Drosera filiformis, Florida all-red.
I wish these D. filiformis looked a bit better. I bet it's the humidity.
Maybe D. filiformis is just a slower grower. I know these two had much less in the way of roots than the D. binata clones did. They have fairly light dew production, and sometimes the leaves don't even fully unfurl before dying back. Still, they're larger, and hopefully with feeding will continue to size up. The one on the right is producing an offset, which might account for its somewhat slower growth.

Drosera filiformis offset.
The smaller plants tend to be really red.
The big bright spot about my D. filiformis is in the leaf cutting that I didn't believe would strike – not only did it strike, but I've got 4 plantlets out of it, the largest of which are more than an inch and a half  (4 cm) tall.

Drosera filiformis from leaf cuttings.
At least the leaf cuttings are looking good.
These seem, relative to their size, more robust than the parent plants. Maybe its the slightly higher humidity – the large plants are in the corner of the tray, which of course has the lowest humidity. Maybe I should try moving them to the other rack, which has higher humidity over all, being a bit enclosed.

It's like the plants grow all by themselves!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Housefly and the Dragon

As I've mentioned before, my Drosera binata complex plants are far and away the most efficient flycatchers. Yesterday, as I was sitting at the table that houses one of my trays (I was harvesting some Drosera aliciae seed), I witnessed a drama unfold.

Fly on Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon'
Sorry about the color/light balance in these photos. The light was weird and in my hands Photoshop is but a blunt tool.
A big fat housefly, attracted by the lights, had been buzzing around the tray, and made the mistake of landing on the D. 'Marston Dragon', among the most menacing of all sundews. I watched, entranced, as it first tried to buzz away, and then began laboriously traversing the laminae, seeking escape.

Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' with fly.
It seemed like safety at the time.
Eventually the fly reached the tip of a leaf, and paused a bit, trying to clean the mucilage away, and presumably also resting after what looked like an exhausting walk – one that started right over as it headed back down the lamina, in search of a more genuinely safe position.

A fly escapes from Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon'
I'll admit: I was disappointed that it reached the petiole.
Finally, after navigating the maze of leaves, the fly found its way to (relative) safety on the petiole, free from dew and enzymes. I had to leave for work around this time, but I know it escaped, in part because there were no new carcasses on the plant this morning, and in part because I just saw the same fly buzzing around the tray again, tempting fate.

Incidentally, I now have D. aliciae seed available for trade.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Easy propagation

It's great when plants just reproduce themselves through splitting and making little offsets and stuff. You wind up with more plants without expending any energy at all. Several of my plants have done this lately, which is great.

My Drosera capillaris has been flowering non-stop for months now. As recently as a few weeks ago I was getting concerned, because it was looking a little ragged – it seemed like all that blooming was tiring it out, and it might give up the ghost on me. I fed it several times though, and now it's looking as good as I've ever seen it.

Drosera capillaris.
The pink tentacles make this one of my most adorable sundews.
I guess I should say "they," since there are at least 4, maybe 5 plants in there. The next time I have a free afternoon to do some serious re-potting I'm gonna split these guys up and give them some breathing room.

Back at the beginning of March I bought a Drosera adelae from Natch Greyes. I posted about it a week after it arrived, while it was still beat up a bit from shipping. I love comparing those photos with what it looks like today:

Drosera adelae.
I've harvested a couple leaves as cuttings for trades, and it hasn't slowed this guy down at all.
It's doing great! It takes to feeding very well, and constantly puts out new, longer leaves. And do you notice right there underneath?

Drosera adelae with pup.
Such a dewy little plantlet.
It's a baby! And it's about the same size as the mother plant was when I bought it. Check out the dewiness too – those are the largest dewdrops of any of my plants. I was really excited when I saw this.

Finally, my Pinguicula gigantea has been flowering lately, which is delightful. I haven't had the time to try manually pollinating the flowers (which I should really do before the other two die off), but the plant is determined that I should have more than one.

Pinguicula gigantea.
It's cool to catch the plant right at the beginning of division.
See right there in the middle? It's forming a new growth point. Give it a month or two and I'll be able to split the pot. Good job little guy.

Growing my collection has never been so easy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

NASC auction acquisitions

I've talked about a couple of the plants I won in the NASC auction – the pygmies and the Utricularia calcyfida – but there are several sundews that for one reason or another I haven't gotten around to discussing. In part I was letting them acclimate to my conditions (and making sure none croaked), and in part I was just too lazy.

First up, here's Drosera prolifera.

Drosera prolifera in living Sphagnum.
D. prolifera still looking a bit floppy.
This was the last plant to arrive, and is still a bit straggly. It's put out one new leaf since being in my care, and I'm not too worried about it in the long term, though I do need to pot it up into something a little larger. It arrived with a couple of droopy flower stalks though, and – true to its name – has started a plantlet in the tray water on one of them.

Drosera prolifera flower stalk plantlet.
A wee little plantlet.
This bodes well for the future at least.

One of the more uncommon plants I got is Drosera hamiltonii. It's an Australian sundew which is sometimes a companion plant to Cephalotus follicularis. I ended up with plants with 2 different sets of location data ("Esperence, SW Australia", and "Western Australia"). The grower who put them up for bid wasn't 100% sure, but suspected they might be different clones, which would be important, since D. hamiltonii doesn't self-fertilize.

Drosera hamiltonii, Esperence, SW Australia.
Drosera hamiltonii slowly getting comfortable.
These guys have been the most reluctant to settle into my conditions. I'm not sure what exactly they want, but there's some dew production so maybe they're just a bit slower growing than the others. We'll find out going forward.

Drosera hamiltonii, Western Australia.
Hopefully a different clone!
These are very attractive when grown well, so I hope they settle in and start to grow. I may try transplanting a seedling or two into LFS to see if they like that better, but that'll be later on.

I also got a couple of hybrids in the deal. This is Drosera ultramafica x spatulata.

Drosera ultramafica x spatulata.
The brilliant red of this hybrid really sold it for me.
It's got some amazing colors, I'm just waiting for it to get some new growth and really fill out. The Drosera x tokaiensis though...

Drosera x tokaiensis.
This plant has been flowering non-stop. Luckily the flowers are sterile.
This is a man-made D. tokaiensis hybrid, which means it's sterile, unlike the naturally occurring D. spatulata x rotundifolia hybrid (more information here). It's also vigorous as hell – it looks like it's been here for months, rather than weeks.

One of the most exciting plants I won is Drosera anglica CA x HI. This plant is a result of careful breeding between the small, tropical, Hawai'ian form of D. anglica with a larger temperate form from California. The result is a large, vigorous, beautiful plant with no dormancy requirement.

Drosera anglica CA x HI.
The elegant D. anglica CA x HI was the early favorite among my housemates.
It's not looking its best, since it was fed 2 days before this picture, but when all the leaves are fresh it's very striking. Long, upright petioles and delicate oval laminae – what's not to love.

Finally, I got a plant I'd been looking for for months – Drosera madagascarensis.

Drosera madagascarensis
I just love how fragile the stalks end up looking. So delicate.
This whimsical, stem-forming South African sundew had been on my radar for some time, and I was super pleased to win one, especially one with location data (Presqu'ile de Masoala, Madagascar). I lost one of the seedlings, but I've still got 4 plants doing great.

The NASC auction was a major event for me – I fleshed out my collection, and my money went to help preserve carnivorous plant habitat and genetic diversity. I intend to donate a lot more plants next year.

It's really fun to grow carnivorous plants :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Plant Profile: Drosera burmannii

This is part of a series of posts describing my experiences with different species, their culture requirements, and photos of their growth in my collection. The full series can be read here, or by species at the Series page.

I love Drosera burmannii. It's everything you could want in a sundew – easy to grow, incredibly dewy, a big (and dramatic) eater, and very handsome when mature.

Drosera burmannii, 5-16-2014
May 16 2014, the five plants in my competition pot.
These D. burmannii come from Humpty Doo, NT, Australia. I'd had an eye out for these plants since I'd read about them on Grow Sundews (and watched the video). I was lucky enough to find seeds available from Crystal's Carnivores (alas, now defunct), and started them a little bit before the new year.

Drosera burmannii seedlings, 2-15-2014
Feb. 15, 2014
I was still getting familiar with the hobby, so I used terrible Wisconsin long-fiber sphagnum from Mosser Lee that was full of sedge and twigs and which I intensely regret purchasing.  Still, it worked fine for the short time I used it, and I got a decent germination rate (though nothing compared to the D. intermedia 'Cuba' seeds I started at the same time).

Drosera burmannii seedlings, 3-1-2014
Mar. 1, 2014
The real trick with D. burmannii, as with all sundews I've tried so far, is food. When fed regularly sundews grow very quickly, and D. burmannii can be fed very regularly. They were a bit slow to get started at first, since the earliest carnivorous leaves were tiny, difficult to feed, and could only take very very small amounts of food. However, once the seedlings reached a decent size (and could be fed accordingly) they fairly exploded. Consider the following two photos:

Drosera burmannii seedlings, 3-11-2014
Mar. 11, 2014
Drosera burmannii, 3-31-2014
Mar. 31, 2014
The plants doubled or tripled in size in only 3 weeks, compared to the extremely slow growth before. They really like food! Shortly after the above photo was taken I traded 2 of the seedlings for some Utricularia praelonga and donated 2 more to the NASC auction, which left me with 9 plants total. Two are now starting to flower!

Drosera burmannii, 5-19-2014
May 19, 2014, happily repotted.
Honestly, if I were to recommend one sundew to people (besides the inevitable and delightful Drosera capensis), this would be it. There are several different location forms (Humpty Doo being among the nicest-colored), but I understand that they're all pretty much as easy as they come.

One note about Drosera burmannii: they are said to be annual, needing to be restarted from seed after flowering. However, the guide at Grow Sundews disagrees, saying that they'll pull through flowering if fed enough and kept in favorable conditions. I guess I'll have the opportunity to find out in the next few months!

Drosera burmannii, 5-19-2014, post feeding
May 19, 2014, having been recently fed.

The Breakdown
  • media: I've used (terrible) long-fiber sphagnum as well as the standard peat:sand and they haven't seemed to care much.
  • light: As much as you can provide, but would probably be fine on a windowsill. I doubt anything but full sun or intense artificial light could produce the nice red colors, though.
  • water: The tray works well, has tolerated brief periods with the tray almost dry.
  • temperature: No particular restrictions, although they'd probably die if frozen.
  • feeding: I feed whenever I have time and there are a couple fresh, unfed leaves (which is often). These guys can really eat.
  • propagation: Easy to start from seed. Sow on a pot of media of your choice, and keep under the lights to germinate. I used plastic wrap to keep the humidity high. Acclimate the plants to lower humidity gradually and then feed as soon as possible. Mine went from seed to flowering in about 5 months.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A couple more flowers

I feel like all I've been posting about lately has been flowers, but I guess that's okay.

First off, my Utricularia sandersonii blue form has fully matured and is a full-on angry bunny.

Utricularia sandersonii blue form flower.
Look at that little bunny glaring at you.
Utricularia sandersonii blue form close up.
Such an elaborate little flower on this Utric.
Utricularia sandersonii blue form flower showing spur.
The spur is even better now.
The Utricularia livida next door is also just getting started with its show, which promises to make for a cheery couple weeks under the lights.

Utricularia livida, starting to bloom.
Those flower scapes are really silly.
Also, excitement of excitements, the Drosera helodes I only recently received from Brie popped its flower open today, and it is lovely.

Drosera helodes in bloom.
I was so delighted when I wandered over to the tray today.
Drosera helodes flower up close.
My roommate was quite taken with the little dots, as am I.
Those little dots are just the sweetest thing, and the plant looks so proud of its little bloom.

I also noticed the first flower stalk on my Drosera burmannii.

Drosera burmannii, beginning to flower.
Surprisingly, the first one to bloom is by no means the largest.
This is quite exciting, as I can sow D. burmannii along with my others once I get my propagation area started. This sundew should be in everyone's collection!

Interestingly, my largest specimen has lost a great deal of its striking red color. I'm not sure exactly why – it still looks fantastic, but I really do wish it was still that brilliant red. I'm going to move it very close to the lights soon, to see if really high light intensity (and somewhat higher temperatures) can stress it nicely. Still looks great though.

Drosera burmannii, almost 6 months old.
I bet this plant could eat a June bug if one happened by.
So dewy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Carnivorous Plant Communities

A carnivorous plant enthusiast can't last long without getting involved in the carnivorous plant community – lots of plants are next to impossible to find for sale, and trading with other growers is the best way to expand your collection. It's also nice to ask questions, trade growing tips, and just chat with people who share your interest.

Pinguicula gigantea flowering in the tray.
It's more fun to grow in a group!


To go full old-school, there are a number of local carnivorous plant societies with meetings and newsletters and all of that.

There are doubtless more, but these are societies I've either heard about, or which seem to show recent activity online.

There are also a whole host of online resources, many of which I mention on my Carnivorous Plant Links page.


  • Terra Forums – Probably the biggest US-centric carnivorous plant forum (the geographical distribution of forum members is important for trades). Does not allow selling for the most part, but has a very active trading scene. The only forum I check regularly.
  • CPUK – The foremost European carnivorous plant forum. I mostly just stick to Terra Forums, but there are good resources here for non-American growers. Very active.
  • The Sarracenia Forum – A dedicated Sarracenia forum for all the Sarracenia addicts out there.
  • FlyTrapCare Forums – Ditto, but for Dionaea.


There are lots of good Facebook resources for CP growers, both pages with good info and groups for posting photos and questions.


  • Natch Greyes' Carnivorous Plants – Updated regularly, includes growing guides for several species, reviews of books and products, and a small store. Highly recommended.
  • The Pitcher Plant Project – Updates are somewhat less frequent, but great photographs. A must for Sarracenia enthusiasts.
  • Cultivation of Bladderwort – This is a blog in Japanese which is mostly focused on Utricularia. The automatic Google Translate does a passable job, and it's cool to see someone writing about Utrics, which are some of the weirdest carnivores.
  • The Pitcher Plantation – Australian Sarracenia blog. Somewhat infrequent updates, but lots of great pictures for the pitcher plant crazed. Also, the reversed Southern Hemisphere seasons mean they have lots of updates in the dead of America's winter, when our Sarracenia are all asleep.
  • ExB – A tumblr with lots of great carnivorous plant photography. 
  • Nitrogen Seekers – Nepenthes photo blog, colorful and pretty.
  • Hooray Plants – Carnivorous plants, orchids, and succulents galore.

Drosera aliciae.
A Drosera aliciae photo from back in February, for old time's sake.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Utricularia sandersonii "blue" flower

It looks like my U. sandersonii from Natch Greyes beat out my U. livida for the privilege of bearing my first (proper) terrestrial Utric flower.

Utricularia sandersonii blue form flower.
I had to take the pot out of its glass bowl for this shot. Such a tiny flower.
It's a tiny little flower, but is super cute up close.

Utricularia sandersonii blue form flower close up.
This flower is looking bashful for its beauty shot.
As you can see, it's not quite mature yet – the distinctive "bunny ears" on top haven't unfolded yet.

Utricularia sandersonii blue form flower close up.
Check out that awesome spur!
It does have this great spur though. Utrics really do have elaborate, orchid-like flowers, just in miniature! At least the terrestrials are miniature.

Just a couple weeks behind, but my U. livida is getting ready for what looks like the first of (hopefully) many mass flowerings.

Utricularia livida ready to bloom.
I'm expecting a big show of blooms any time now.
I'm really excited for the flowers to start popping open – so far I count 6 scapes. Gonna be really cute!

My Drosera 'Marston Dragon' is also blooming rather impressively.

Drosera binata 'Marston Dragon' flower stalk.
I like how this plant supports multiple blooms at once.
It's too bad that the buds are all right at the height of the lights, so I don't get to see them as often as I like. It's still quite cute.

The second flower has also opened on my Pinguicula gigantea.

Two Pinguicula gigantea flowers in the tray.
The Ping flower stalks flex up and down over the course of the day. I wish I could film it.
Pretty sure these are the cheeriest blooms in my whole collection. I believe one can self-pollinate P. gigantea, and if so I should get on that. This is such a cute little butterwort.

I'll keep the blog updated with any new Utric flowers.