We had to pick up flowers for a relative a few days ago, and since it wasn’t the kind of occasion that required an all-out $75 spending spree at the florist, we just hit the supermarket for one of the cheaper bouquets that come wrapped in the less-glossy paper. And thank God for that. Our local supermarket has a fairly small flower section, but somehow, in the midst of all the “Happy Birthday” planters and little pots full of bamboo sticks with the requisite not-quite-Buddha statues, there was a section full of Venus Flytraps.
My first experiences with Venus Flytraps came by way of elementary school plant sales. I’m sure the plant sale is a familiar enough entity to most of you. For whatever reason, parents and students alike were invited into a plant shop converted from a science classroom, where we could buy flowers, seeds and all kinds of greenery for no steadily apparent reason at all. It was nowhere near as joyous as the school’s annual book fair, but any opportunity to skip class and blow Mommy’s money was a welcome one.
There wasn’t a heck of a lot for young, male horticulturists to indulge in at the plant sale. Even if some of us found the blazing yellows of a well-watered daffodil assortment striking, it’s not like we could’ve admitted that in front of our buddies. No, at the plant sale, it was all about the Venus Flytrap: God’s gift to every small boy who didn’t want the social connotations involved with buying a “sissy” plant.
The Flytraps we got back then came in containers somewhat similar to the one seen above, but the plants inside were always young and weak. I’ve read enough about Venus Flytraps to know that this particular fashion of distribution goes against every expert’s rules on how to keep ’em alive, but somehow, the traps in this container looked healthy, active and ready to rain fire on any bug stupid enough to mistake them for lawn chairs.
Kind of pretty in their own little way, aren’t they? They need to be. Ugly plants might not seem as inviting to the many bugs that help make up a Venus Flytrap’s diet. The “trap” mechanism is amazing. When I gently flick the scary hairy fangs of the plants, the traps immediately slam shut. What’s a mere novelty act in my kitchen is actually how the Flytraps survive the “lean years” in their native environments: Bugs land in, shimmy around, find themselves trapped and are then slowly digested until nothing but a hunk of chitin (which looks like rat shit, but is actually an insect corpse) is leftover. If I was going to pick any plant to write about during the Halloween season, it had to be this.
Be warned: There are a ton of kits available that claim to let you grow your own Venus Flytraps, never mentioning how difficult this is for a novice, especially with the tools and directions supplied in such kits. It’s not an impossible mission for anyone who spends a bit of time studying up first, but don’t be fooled by those kits just because they’ve got neat graphics of killer plants on the packages. Even if you buy one “live” like this, you’ll still need to research a bit if you want your traps to live longer than a week. You can’t just throw it under the faucet and feed it dead bugs every few days, unless, by some chance, you’ve accepted an underworld bounty and have been charged with killing as many Venus Flytraps as possible.
As a second caveat, note that you’ll tend to consider your Venus Flytrap as being more “alive” and “feeling” than most other plants. There’s just something about them that makes you believe in all that shit about plants liking soft music. You’ll probably cry and consider holding a mock funeral when they die, so if you’re particularly prone to depression or separation anxiety, you might want to pick a plant that’s a little less awesome.