on the road: visiting california carnivores

On our recent trip we had only one nursery on the list of must-visit locations: California Carnivores in Sebastapol.

California Carnivores sign

Specializing in carnivorous plants from around the world, proprietor Peter D’Amato has assembled a collection of species and hybrids that run the gamut from venus flytraps and American pitcher plants to really cool sundews and bladderworts.

Sarracenia Danas Delight

One of the first plants that you encounter is this massed group of the hybrid, Sarracenia x Dana’s Delight. It’s a fairly common plant, but gather together several dozen pots of it in a massed display and there’s nothing common about it. The pitchers color up to a most amazing purplish red when grown in strong sunlight.

Sarracenias California Carnivores

Here’s another pitcher plant that had some gorgeous coloration. I forgot to note the name–sorry–but I think it might be a form or hybrid of S. flava.

Darlingtonia californica at California Carnivores

If there’s a pitcher plant that I covet it’s this one, the California and Oregon cobra lily, Darlingtonia californica. I’ve killed one already, and won’t attempt another until I’m more confident that I can offer it what it needs to survive.

California Carnivores propagation ponds

To grow so many different kinds of plants requires a lot of space. Here’s a shot of the propagation ponds.

Carnivore collection

I left the premises with three plants, a couple more than I really have room for in my bog. I posted yesterday about the amazing fly-catching capabilities of the sundew I bought (Drosera filiformis ssp. filiformis ‘Florida giant’). Another plant was a division of an albino hybrid, Super Green Giant.

Sarracenia flava

The third purchase was this beautifully colored version of the yellow pitcher, Sarracenia flava. Here it is from the front…

Sarracenia flava clone from behind

…and here it is from behind.

Sarracenia flava pitcher

…and for contrast, here’s a form of this species with minimal coloration, ‘Maxima.’ I love its yellow-green coloration.

The basic element of a pitcher plant is a highly developed leaf structure that contains a reservoir of fluid that insects fall into. The bug eventually drowns, and the the digested insect turns into food for the plant.

The more I look at pitcher plants, the more I appreciate the differences between them. It’s like musical variations on a theme, where you start with something simple and recognizable, and then go off into all sorts of amazing directions.

Jenny was out to this coast for a family visit, and was along for this plant trip. Her purchases were two: a small but very pretty and cute bladderwort, Utricularia livida, and a distinctive little venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula.

The husband’s reaction when we got back to the hotel went something like, “You bought a venus flytrap? To take all the way back to South Carolina? Where venus flytraps come from?” But Jenny is a a curious plant person herself, and the flytrap she picked was a nicely grown specimen that had striking red coloration unlike the typical versions of the species. Like pitcher plants, flytraps can have their own sets of cool variations on the basic theme.

6 thoughts on “on the road: visiting california carnivores”

  1. This series of posts are the first ones that have made me consider the value in carnivorous plants. When we sit outside in the evenings, I am one of those people that the bugs love, while my husband relaxes bite-free. Not surprisingly, this makes me quite cranky. If there is a plant guaranteed to prefer the taste of mosquitos, I’m there!

  2. I am always impressed with the adaptations that plants (and other living organisms) come up with to thrive in the many different environments of our planet. These plants are just so cool – I love their colors and their tricks. Next time we head north, I’ll vote to drive past the wineries and head straight for California Carnivores. Well, hopefully we can do both!

  3. TM, they’re not low water use California natives for the most part, but they’re well worth checking out.

    Susie, it WAS a major fun trip.

    Susan, I can empathize since I’m another of those creatures that bugs find delectable. I’m not sure how effective these plants would be to keep down your bug population–I’d guess it’d take a garden full of them to make much difference. But what attracts me most to these plants isn’t their bug-catching abilities as much as their really cool forms.

    Barbara, don’t deny yourself the wineries, since they’re part of the Sonoma County experience! I’ll be posting more on the winery/garden pairing that is prevalent all over that part of the state.

  4. Thanks for the nice comments and sharing your beautiful pictures of our nursery. Keep on spreading the word.

    Damon and the rest of the crew at California Carnivores

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