// WHAT'S THE WORLD'S FASTEST PREDATOR?
A cheetah sprinting at 70 miles/hour (112 km/hour)?
A peregrine falcon diving at 200 miles/hour (320 km/hour)?
It's a bug-eating plant.
This one, specifically: of the genus Utricularia.
Its name in Latin comes from the word describing the leather bladders or pouches used for storing wine and it's exactly this leather pouch that makes utrics the fastest eaters of prey.
Above ground level, utrics are pretty but generally unassuming across the over 230+ known species today. Some flowers look like tiny rabbit ears (u.sandersonii) , others show up as constellations of yellow paint drops bursting from the grass (u.cornuta).
But below ground, the utrics' tiny lima bean shaped bladders (hence their common name, the bladderworts): in the soil for terrestrial species or floating like so many specks of dirt in aquatic ones, are nature's suction traps that when triggered, vacuum in wandering prey in less than 1 millisecond.
Once suctioned into the bladder traps, prey are dissolved and their nutrients absorbed into the plant. The trap then resets itself, like squeezing an eye dropper, waiting for the next food source to swim past it. Per the research of Ulrike Müller at Cal State Fresno, this is blisteringly fast--10X faster than the next known suction feeders like largemouth bass and other fish.
My interest as a hobbyist is in growing and learning about utricularia. I'm a windowsill / sunny porch grower at best, but through conferences and scientific papers I've been devouring knowledge wherever I can find it (it just takes me longer than 1 millisecond).
// 2018 International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS) Meeting - Sonoma County, US
In August of 2018, the global ICPS conference took place in the United States, drawing attendees from six countries, representing multiple clubs and academic institutions from across the world. For three days, attendees gathered at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma in Santa Rosa for academic talks, showrooms full of plants, field excursions, or just catching up with new acquaintances over Thai food.
One of the things I was so privileged to hear and witness during the conference was everyone's tie to the famed California Carnivores greenhouse in nearby Sebastopol, California. Damon Collingsworth, today a co-owner of California Carnivores, shared his own story of voyaging to meet Peter D'Amato and acquiring his first plant, a cape sundew (drosera capensis).
The other amazing thing I got to witness was ICPS presenting Peter with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. An award with global cred is itself a huge honor, but even more inspiring were the queues of carnivorous plant society members, presidents, and sellers who lined up to pay tribute to Peter, all stemming from him personally, their dog-eared copies of Savage Garden, or a plant they had received through Peter personally or from California Carnivores.
// ORIGIN STORIES
Many carnivorous plant enthusiasts can trace their origin stories to unwittingly killing their first venus flytrap. But no flytraps were harmed in the making of my enthusiasm for the hobby.
My fascination started with an article in a National Geographic that I came across while hanging out at The Chattanooga Public Library while in elementary school. Large full color photos of carnivorous plants were themselves otherworldly and fascinating. But even more so were how carnivorous plants functioned.
Carnivorous plants grew in environments that were low in nutrients and suffered from conditions often too harsh to support any other type of plant life. Low rain, high humidity, high temperatures, ravaging insects -- yet somehow carnivorous plants adapted themselves to not only survive in this harsh world, but voraciously thrive.
My interaction with these special plants stayed mostly within National Geographic photo spreads or the occasional three hundred word essay for seventh grade science class until I was in college. Finding myself in the nature section of a Borders Bookstore while as a student in Baltimore, I discover-browsed this peculiar book: The Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato.
For me and virtually every other enthusiast or commercial grower I've met, Savage Garden was the gateway drug into the hobby.
After college, I took advantage of working second shift in a 24 hour factory, meaning my work day fell between the hours of 2:30pm - 12:30am, so I had a reserve of daylight hours to pursue other passions. I had the chance to volunteer for a brief time at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, known for its own collection of carnivores.
I'd help sweep up the greenhouse, pull weeds, and in the carnivorous plant bog, prune or "dead head" the Gardens's vast pitcher plant collection. Even if I was down in the dirt repotting plants, being able to take a break and wander the carnivorous plant bog was my payment.
// BACPS 2017 SUMMER SHOW
// EPHEMERA & SIGHTINGS
Carnivorous Plants and Art Museums: "The Atom vs. Dionaea"
Didn't Catch Any of 'Em
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL):
Lego pitcher plants looming over the up and coming serracenia