Carnivorous Plants

This is Sarracenia x mitchelliana x Sarracenia x swaniana.
This is Sarracenia x mitchelliana x Sarracenia x swaniana.
A Venus Fly Trap, also known by its botanical name of Dionaea muscipula.
A Venus Fly Trap, also known by its botanical name of Dionaea muscipula.

There’s something quite thrilling about carnivorous plants. Ever since I spotted a Venus Fly Trap at a nursery as a young child, I have found carnivorous plants to be intriguing.  The excitement of watching a Venus Fly Trap snapping shut its trap has never ceased to fascinate me.

A close up of Venus Fly Trap, also known by its botanical name of Dionaea muscipula. In this photograph you can see the trigger hairs inside the trap, when two or more of these hairs are touched in succession, as an insect walks over the trap, the trap will snap closed, trapping the insect inside.
A close up of Venus Fly Trap, also known by its botanical name of Dionaea muscipula. In this photograph you can see the trigger hairs inside the trap, when two or more of these hairs are touched in succession, as an insect walks over the trap, the trap will snap closed, trapping the insect inside.

Carnivorous plants have evolved growing in peat bogs, growing in peat formed from sphagnum moss and as a consequence they require specially formulated compost, which will vary depending on which genus of carnivorous plant is grown.  Peat is an environmentally precious resource, which is formed very slowly, at a rate of just 1mm a year, if the ideal conditions are given.  I am passionate about saving and protecting peat bogs and the flora and fauna that depend on these threatened areas for their survival.

Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey has boardwalks which extend to over 3/4 of a mile over the water and boggy areas of the nature reserve. The boardwalks allow everyone, including disabled visitors, access to this very special place, where you can see sundews, and an array of rare and interesting flora and fauna.
Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey has boardwalks which extend to over 3/4 of a mile over the water and boggy areas of the nature reserve. The boardwalks allow everyone, including disabled visitors, access to this very special place, where you can see sundews, and an array of rare and interesting flora and fauna.
Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey is a wonderful place to visit. It's great for birdwatching - hobbys, curlews, and nightjars, are just a few of the birds you can spot. You can also see a large variety of dragonflies, as well as butterflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, and lizards, at Thursley Common.
Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey is a wonderful place to visit. It’s great for birdwatching – hobbys, curlews, and nightjars, are just a few of the birds you can spot. You can also see a large variety of dragonflies, as well as butterflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, and lizards, at Thursley Common.

If you would like to see carnivorous plants growing in their native environment, later in the year you might enjoy a visit to Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey, where from June you can see our native species of Drosera, more commonly known as sundews.  You’ll find lots of fascinating plants at Thursley, where you can also spot lizards, dragonflies, butterflies, birds and lots more interesting and beautiful wildlife.  Thursley Common is a super place to visit; it’s at its best from May to September.  Thursley Common has a specially constructed wooden boardwalk, which extends to 3/4 mile over the wetter areas of the reserve, offering access for all, even wheelchairs, allowing visitors close up views of the rare plants and wildlife that find sanctuary at this precious place.

Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
A closer look at Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
A closer look at Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
A closer look at Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
A closer look at Drosera rotundifolia, also known as the round-leaved sundew, pictured at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in June.
A Common Lizard, also known as Zootoca vivipara, on the boardwalk at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey.
A Common Lizard, also known as Zootoca vivipara, on the boardwalk at Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey.
Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey has boardwalks which extend to over 3/4 of a mile over the water and boggy areas of the nature reserve. The boardwalks allow everyone, including disabled visitors, access to this very special place, where you can see sundews, and an array of rare and interesting flora and fauna.
Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey has boardwalks which extend to over 3/4 of a mile over the water and boggy areas of the nature reserve. The boardwalks allow everyone, including disabled visitors, access to this very special place, where you can see sundews, and an array of rare and interesting flora and fauna.
This is Sarracenia x Swaniana red form.
This is Sarracenia x Swaniana red form.

If you would like to grow your own carnivorous plants, consider hardy varieties of Sarracenia that can be grown outside, without protection.  Always select the hardiest varieties, such as Sarracenia purpurea subs. purpurea.

This is a close up of Sarracenia cv. Eva, showing a trumpet with red veining.
This is a close up of Sarracenia cv. Eva, showing a trumpet with red veining.

February to April is the ideal time to plant Sarracenia, which grow best in a position where they will receive the maximum light.  Sarracenia, like all carnivorous plants, should be grown in specially mixed compost.  Sarracenia require acidic conditions, so avoid adding any lime containing materials at planting time, and whilst caring for your plants.  Use only rainwater to water your carnivorous plants – don’t add water to the trumpets of your Sarracenia, the plant will do this naturally by itself.  Keep your plants a little dryer over wintertime to avoid rotting.

This is a close up of Sarracenia cv. Eva. I love the green veining!
This is a close up of Sarracenia cv. Eva. I love the green veining!

Sarracenia grow well in containers, they are not deep-rooted plants – a shallow trough style of container is ideal.  Don’t choose a larger container than you need, these are slow growing plants which do not require a deep container or an excess of compost.  Horticultural grit can be used to provide extra drainage or to fill out the base of your container if it’s deeper than required.  Horsham Stone and Reclamation sell reclaimed antique troughs, which would suit this style of planting.

This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii.
This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii.

Carnivorous plants grow best planted as a group with other carnivorous plants, avoid any temptation to mix more invasive plants into your display, as this would be detrimental to your carnivorous plants.

A close up of the red veining of a Sarracenia.
A close up of the red veining of a Sarracenia.

Hampshire Carnivorous Plants, based in Horton Heath in Hampshire, have been growing carnivorous plants for over thirty-five years.  Specialist growers of Sarracenia, Drosera, Dionaea (also known as Venus Fly Traps) they can supply you with everything you need to grow these exciting plants, from books, compost, to the plants themselves.  Purchasing from a specialist grower provides the opportunity to select top quality plants and receive advice from an expert grower.

This is Sarracenia x mitchelliana x Sarracenia x swaniana.
This is Sarracenia x mitchelliana x Sarracenia x swaniana.
This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii, you can see that a fly is just about to enter to pitcher.
This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii, you can see that a fly is just about to enter to pitcher.
This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii - a fly is about to enter the pitcher.
This is Sarracenia flava var. rugelii – a fly is about to enter the pitcher.
This is a close up of Sarracenia flava var. rugelii, a fly is just about to enter the pitcher of this carnivorous plant.
This is a close up of Sarracenia flava var. rugelii, a fly is just about to enter the pitcher of this carnivorous plant.

This article was first published in the February 2016 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

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