Oct 24th, 2016

Carnivorous Plant LOVE

Wasp and pitcher plants. Photo by Laura Russell

Wasp and pitcher plants (Sarracenia) in the West Island Garden. Photo by Laura Russell.

Native Carnivorous Plants

I’ve made a few jokes about how carnivorous plants have so many fans — especially tween boys. They even have paparazzi! So, I wasn’t surprised when a saw a post on our Facebook page from a mom who said her son was crazy about them.

“Back in March, we promised Ethan to take him to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for his birthday because he is OBSESSED with carnivorous plants. Well, everything happened and we just never did.” But then, on Labor Day the Garden hosted Genworth Free Community Day. The kids were out of school.

Ethan as a carnivorous plant for halloween

Ethan, lover of carnivorous plants, trying on this year’s Halloween costumer: a Venus fly trap. Note the fly on Ethan’s shoulder! Photo by Laura Russell.

The family was free. It was a picture perfect day. And Ethan and his family visited us for the very first time — in daylight anyway. Until then, they had visited once for Dominion GardenFest of Lights. “So we’ve only been there in the dark,” Ethan’s mom, Laura Lea Russell explains. Not a great time to see carnivorous plants.

“We had an AMAZING time!! We didn’t get to see the butterflies because the line was so long, but he got to see what what he wanted and we got to spend a beautiful day as a family. And all the LEGO statues were unbelievable!!!”

Ethan, 9, a fourth grader at Amelia County Elementary, only discovered how much he loves these plants about a year ago. It’s been an exciting year.

“We bought him some… . He loves feeding these things!” she says.

Ethan explains, “I keep them in my mom’s bathroom. Why? Well for one there’s really good light in there… ,”  Mom interjects,  if she didn’t keep them there she says, “He would stay up all night with the pitcher plants otherwise.”

His favorite carnivorous plant is the American pitcher plant and he knows a lot about them. Ethan explains that with most carnivorous plants you can’t see what’s going on inside, but with pitcher plants you can. “I squeeze the bottom very lightly and push up and water will come up to the top and you can see what bugs are in there.”

Pitcher Plant or Sarracenia

A pitcher plant (Sarracenia) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo by Laura Russell.

Ethan’s mom simply appreciates that his love of carnivorous plants has inspired him to read and to write more than he used to.

“He reads everything he can about the carnivorous plants. He hates to read, but he’s asking to read these books.” It seems she’s developed a fondness for the plants as well.  “When we took this trip and took the time to really look — I mean these are really beautiful plants. I have to say they are a lot prettier than I thought.”

Ethan was so inspired that he authored his first book:

“This is a story about carnivorous plants,” he writes. “They’re plants that eat bugs to survive. They have different ways to capture bugs. Like the Venus fly trap — they have these mouths that close on their prey. Or [with] the pitcher plant, the bug falls in and drowns… . Acids burn the bug into a soup and the plants eat it.”

The World of Carnivorous plants, story and illustrations by Ethan

“The World of Carnivorous plants” written and illustrated by Ethan Russell

Ethan owns two Venus fly traps and two pitcher plants and he feeds them ants and flies that he finds.”[With flies] I take one of the wings off so it can’t fly away and for the ants you have to grab the ant by the back and put it in there. When it gets in it will fall into the bottom.”

Ethan asked his mom, who has a photography business (Like Art Photography) to take photos of the pitcher plants here at the Garden to hang in his room.  Those are the images you see above.

“I have photographed grumpy teenagers, screaming babies, huge families, gigantic weddings, once-in-a-lifetime events but yesterday was my hardest and most stressful shoot of them all!!” she writes on Facebook. “My Son asked me if I could get some good shots of pitcher plants for him to hang on his wall. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous to show one of my clients their photos. Hope he likes them!!”

Ethan’s mom also has quite a talent for creating Halloween costumes as you can see. Ethan is going to be a Venus fly trap for Halloween. “It’s like it’s going to be climbing up me, about to bite me,” he grins.

What a fun way to go trick-or-treating!

pitcher plant one of several carnivorous plants at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

A pitcher plant smiling, or just waiting to eat some unsuspecting insect! Photo by Laura Russell.

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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