Sunday, September 30, 2018

New England Carnivorous Plant Show 2018

A carnivorous plant fairy garden. It's kind of implied that the local fairies aren't the brightest bulbs on the tree.  
Earlier this month, the New England Carnivorous Plant Society held its annual show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden near Worcester, Mass. There were nearly 2000 visitors for the weekend, which is a little down from recent years, but still impressive for a specialist plant show.

Darlingtonia californica.
One of the special events at this year's show was the Cobra Lily Challenge. In general, Darlingtonia, the Cobra Lily, is difficult to grow in the Northeast and is poorly represented in shows. So back in June, the NECPS distributed divisions of Darlingtonia to interested members, in exchange for a promise to bring the plants back to display in September.

The Cobra Lily Challenge display. 
The main issue with cultivating Darlingtonia in this area seems to be that the plants like their roots kept cool, and suffer in hot muggy weather, especially when temperatures stay warm all night. People have tried various tricks, like irrigating with ice water or keeping plants in air conditioned terrariums, but the some of the best results were with plants grown mainly outdoors, but protected from the worst of this summer's heatwaves by, e.g., bringing them temporarily indoors in air conditioned spaces under lights.

Drosera, Drosophyllum, Utricularia and others in the show. 

Sarracenia leucophylla. 
There were a number of interesting talks at the show, in particular a presentation by Prof. Larry Mellichamp of the University of North Carolina, on the question of how the American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia)  avoid trapping potential pollinating insects. The various species of Sarracenia produce pitcher traps and flowers at different times of the year, separated at different heights, and/or with different attractants that draw in separate populations of prey insects and pollinators. Sarracenia leucophylla, for instance, produces dark maroon, bumblebee-pollinated flowers in spring, while its largest, most effective traps emerge in summer and autumn, and use sweet odors and pure white coloration to attract moths at night.

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