Sunday, 21 November 2010

Charles Darwin and the Botanical History of Carnivorous Plants, EEE 2011

Carnivorous plants have captured the imagination and wonderment of naturalist and botanists alike for several centuries. For instance, Sarracenia minor, first recorded as Thuris limpidifolium, was brought to the world's knowledge as long ago as 1570 in Mattias de l'Obel and Petrus Pena's  Nova Stirpium Adversaria. Of more recent fame the great Charles Darwin carried out the most meticulous of experiments on a variety of genera in a quest, which began in 1880 and finished with his book Insectivorous Plant, published in 1875, to once and for all prove their carnivorous nature. Darwin achieved this objective, though it took another year before his evidence was generally accepted.

Each genera has its own rich and diverse history and at the European Carnivorous Plant Exchange and Exhibition 2011(EEE 2011), to be held at Chester Zoo, England, on July 2nd and 3rd, the Carnivorous Plant Society surmise their story in a "Charles Darwin and the Botanical History of Carnivorous Plant" display.

Charles Darwin will also be making an appearance, reenacted by Chris Bailey an outstanding period actor. The Carnivorous Plant Society are delighted that Chris will be joining us, and with a BSc (Hons) degree in Botany achieved at one of the countries leading universities - Exeter - visitors are going to be in for a real treat.

Botanical History of Sarracenia
Charles Darwin 1809-1882

Chris Bailey in character as Charles Darwin

We would like to thank modern day carnivorous plant explorer, author and photographer Stewart McPherson for his support in putting together the display. Stewart has written and published several leading books on carnivorous plants, which no enthusiast should be without: Redfern Natural History

Monday, 8 November 2010

Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats by Stewart McPherson

British naturalist Stewart McPherson is back with two more fabulous carnivorous plant books entitled Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats, which comes in two volumes.

Tim Bailey says: "Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats examine the wild ecology, diversity and natural history of all carnivorous plant genera worldwide. This stunning, detailed and beautiful study reveals carnivorous plants in unparalleled detail to botanists and naturalists, and provides horticulturists with specific information to cultivate carnivorous plants with a greater level of success. The two volumes of Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats are 1,441 pages long, and includes 799 spectacular images."

Part of the unique content of McPherson's work includes four spectacular new Nepenthes species (N. gantungensis, N. holdenii, N. hamiguitanensis and N. palawanensis), and detailed coverage of the new carnivorous genus Philcoxia.

Volume One covers the following chapters:
Introduction Tables Turned: A New Natural Order
Carnivorous Plants of the World
Evolution of Carnivorous Plants
Associated Life: Mutualists and Infauna
Habitats of Carnivorous Plants

Snap Traps: 


Pitcher Plants: 

Volume Two covers the following chapters:
Sticky-Leaved Insect-Eating Plants:

Corkscrew Plants:




The future of Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats
About the Author

Sunday, 17 October 2010

EEE 2011 – National Carnivorous Plant Collections

Visitors attending the European Carnivorous Plant Exchange and Exhibition 2011 (EEE 2011) at Chester Zoo on 2-3 July are going to be in for a real treat. The UK has a long, rich and diverse history of growing carnivorous plants and boasts many outstanding collections – not least several National Plant Collections. 
As soon as the Carnivorous Plant Society was granted the EEE 2011 it quickly set about contacting National Plant Collection holders, and we are delighted that several have agreed to display a collection of their plants at the event. Thanks to them EEE 2011 will be a ‘not to be missed’ opportunity to see world class collections of carnivorous plant species, grown by renowned and world leading experts, including many rare plants – a mouth watering proposition!

Dennis Balsdon, the CPS Membership Secretary and EEE 2011 Project Manager says“This is a unique opportunity and a must for carnivorous plant enthusiasts, and any one else interested in plants for that matter. The National Plant Collections expected to be on display are: Sarracenia (North American Pitcher Plant, Dionaea muscipula (Venus Flytap), Drosera (Sundews), Heliamphora (Sun Pitcher Plant), Nepenthes (Monkey Cup). We also hope to feature a world leading collection of Pinguicula.”

The National Plant Collection scheme is run by The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG). The NCCPG’s mission is “to conserve, grow, propagate, document and make available the amazing resource of garden plants that exists in the UK.”

Want to know more about National Collections: Plant Heritage

National Collection: Sarracenia (Shropshire Sarracenias - Mike King) 

National Collection:Dionaea muscipula (Shropshire Sarracenias - Mike King)
 Want to know more about Shropshire Sarracenias: Shropshire Sarracenias

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Hydroponic Flytrap - Flood & Flow Technique

In an earlier blog Tim Bailey, Newsletter and Journal Editor for the Carnivorous Plant Society, announced a new innovative pot - Air-pots - which will be on display at the European Carnivorous Plant Exchange and Exhibition (EEE 2011) (Chester Zoo, 2-3 July). Several other techniques Tim uses to grow carnivorous plants hydroponically will also be on display. One of which will be the Flood and Flow Technique (FFT), which he has recently perfected. Tim says "having had success growing VFTs in a deep water 'bubble' system I've been scratching my head to come up with an easy way to do something similar on a large scale, and one that would suit the needs of several genera. After several sleepless nights thinking of bizarre and complex methods it finally dawned on me that I could simply convert a flood and drain (ebb and flood) system into what I have christened the FFT."

Starting with an EF120 ebb and flood system (ebb and flood) Tim blocked the outlet pipe (drain), which sits next to the inlet pipe, and moved it to the other end of the growing tray. The reservoir was filled with rainwater, from which it is then pumped up into the growing tray using a simple circulation pump to create a 'water table' (the water level is controlled by the height of the drainage outlet). Water topping the drainage outlet drains back into the reservoir. The pump is run 24/7 maintaining the water table and creating a flow of water across the tray. This is a departure from normal use where a segmental timer is used to stop and start the pump allowing the water level to rise and fall to optimise the root oxygen supply in the growing medium. Tim says "a rich root oxygen supply is vital to plant growth so I have added high quality air-stones, three in all, to the reservoir. These run 24/7 creating a frenzy of bubbles which highly oxygenate the water. During the night I may allow the water to drain down to a few centimetres once or twice during the night, for 15 minutes each time, using a timer, to keep things really fresh." To help maintain the oxygen level in the growing season Tim plans to place ice packs into the reservoir on a daily basis. The cool water created will also make growing conditions more favourable to a wider group of carnivorous plants, for example Darlingtonia californica - that's his theory.

Flood and Flow Technique (FFT)
Netted pots are used to contain the medium - a 60:40 ratio of washed expanded clay and live sphagnum moss (LSM) collected from a sustainable source. LSM is used here for three main reasons. Firstly, it's important to keep the water clear to stop the circulation pump clogging up. Secondly, LMS helps regulate an acidic pH. Thirdly, it help's keep the medium above the water level wet but airy. Most of the plants roots hang below the water table, with the rhizome a centimetre or so above. Potting before the growing season is a good idea to allow the moss to grow, to reduce plant stress and to allow the environment to settle. Some protection in winter may be required to prevent freezing, e.g. covering with bubble wrap when frost is expected.

Raising the inlet pipe to the same level as the outlet pipe can avert the risk to the plants from pump failure, but it would reduce water circulation. Once the LSM has established then it should give the grower time to rescue the plants. A tip is to have a couple of pipe sleeves handy to add to the inlet pipe so that the water table can be temporarily maintained if failure happens (or you plan to go away for a few days). Spare sleeves can be purchased from a good hydroponic supplier, e.g. Progrow.

Tim concludes, "the plants I'm growing are Darlingtonia californica, Sarracenia purpurea purpurea, Sarracenia purpurea ssp purpurea heterophylla and Dionaea muscipula. I'm also considering adding the Greater Bladderwort - Utricularia vulgaris to the water that surrounds the netted pots. I'm excited by the potential of the FFT - so fingers crossed. By the time of the EEE 2011 the plants should be well settled in their new home."

A further edition to Tim's collection will be a hydroponic mire for Dionaea muscipula, Drosera species and Utricularia species. The system will be a cross between the drip method and flood and drain.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Nepenthes and the Air-pot

On 2-3rd July 2011 visitors to the European Carnivorous Plant Exhibition and Exchange (EEE 2011) will see a display of hydroponic techniques used for growing carnivorous plants (cps).  The display will show a variety of fun ways to grow cps, but with a serious edge. Tim Bailey, who will be providing the display, on behalf of the Carnivorous Plant Society, says: "I've been dabbling with hydroponics for several years and my personal collection is about 95% peat-free. The only difference from conventional hydroponics is that I grow my plants without a nutrient solution - the plants take care of that themselves! Although I have yet to achieve monsters, the results compared to conventionally grown plants are similar, with some showing enhanced growth. To me this is a great result considering they are grown without a crumb of peat, the staple ingredient for most cp mediums. There have been one or two disappointments along the way but I've yet to kill a plant in the last 4 years, but for a single Darlingtonia californica. I've also had to rethink how I grow Dionaea muscipula (VFT) as results have been mixed. For example, I've enhanced the growth of one VFT by up to 50% using a deep water bubble system, compared to its parent control, but growing VFTs in flood and drain systems has been disappointing."

A recent introduction to hydroponics has been the Air-pot, described as the most advanced pot system in the universe. Quite a claim, and one Tim is keen to put to the test. The secret to the Air-pot is a revolutionary 3-D cone shaped wall which prevents root-circling and stimulates roots by 'air-pruning,' and in doing so provides superior oxygenation and better soil conditions for growth.  The most obvious application, according to Tim, is Nepenthes: "The pots are quite tall in relation to width and very sturdy. This is very handy, as Nepenthes can become top heavy and the tall pots help suspend aerial pitchers that hang from the end of tendrils." Tim will also be testing Sarracenia species, which he hopes to display at EEE 2011.

  Nepenthes growing in Air-pots

Members of the Carnivorous Plant Society will be updated on Tim's hydroponic trials in the 2010 Autumn edition of the Society's Journal and Newsletter. If you are not a member and would like to join, then visit the Society's website And why not take a closer look on 2-3 July 2011 at the EEE! The Society look forward to seeing you.

Want to know more about Air-pots - visit

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Flesh Eating Plants Down at the Zoo

The UK Carnivorous Plant Society has been awarded the honour of hosting the prestigious European Carnivorous Plant Exhibition & Exchange - The EEE 2011.

The Society is indebted to the UKs number one Zoo - Chester Zoo - who have provided the venue for the event.

Carnivorous plant enthusiasts from across Europe, and beyond, will descend on the Zoo on 2-3 July 2011, swelled by the Zoo's own visitors,  to feast on one of the greatest collections of carnivorous plants ever displayed, including many rare plants. And if not 'consumed' by the vast array of flesh-eating plants on display, there's the little matter of the Zoo's 7000 animals and 400 different species to see - including some of the most endangered species on the planet! 

The Society's says: "This will be a unique experience of the like not seen before in the UK. We have lots of interesting plans to make it a day not to be missed. Visitors will be amazed at just how many carnivorous plant species there are in the world and just how beautiful and amazing these bug eaters are."

So, if you are planning to go to the Zoo on 2-3 July 2011 you'll be in for a big surprise!

The Carnivorous Plant Society is a registered Charity, founded in 1978 with the aim of bringing together all those interested in carnivorous plants, both beginners and experts. Membership is open to all individuals and institutions, both amateur and professional.