St. Louis Carnivorous Plant Society president Susan Farrington has recently installed a bog/water feature in her backyard so that her little Audrey IIs can thrive. Audrey II, you may recall, is the monstrous blood-sucking alien plant that dominates the stage in Little Shop of Horrors. The Venus flytraps and pitcher plants that wait for foolish insects to flit through Farrington's yard may not be as large as the theatrical maneater, but they are nearly as interesting.
The inaugural show and sale by the society invades the Missouri Botanical Garden's Ridgway Center on Saturday with a macabre array of flytraps, pitcher plants, bladderworts, butterworts and sundews. The plants, poor-soil specialists, don't glean much nutrition from their roots. Instead, they trap and slowly dissolve animals, a justifiable middle finger back at the vegetarians of our sentient kingdom.
The U.S. is home to the Carolina-native Venus flytrap, the most readily identifiable of the carnivorous plants, which features a sticky "mouth" ringed by a cage of spines. Pitcher plants grow along the East Coast and across the Great Lakes region, including parts of northern Illinois. Missouri is home to three species of bladderwort.
These fascinating plants are becoming rare as a result of diminishing wetland regions and the unethical or ignorant actions of plant collectors. (The plants on show and for sale were cultivated, not collected from the wild). Displays at the show offer hints on how to help protect the vanishing wild carnivores, as well as diagrams detailing how they trap and absorb and where they may be found in various temperate regions of the country.
Farrington says that the plants are easy to grow and that all are welcome to bimonthly society meetings, where each member donates a pint of blood for the benefit of the society's little friends.
The St. Louis Carnivorous Plant Society Show and Sale takes place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 3, at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd. Admission is free with Garden admission. Call 314-577-9400 for more information.