Buzz: The new garden fad — carnivorous plants - Stockxpo - Grow more with Investors, Traders, Analyst and Research

Buzz: The new garden fad — carnivorous plants

“The plants are carnivorous? So, you feed them meat? Minced or boneless?” Staring at the 8-inch pitchers dangling from the carnivorous Nepthenes Mirabilis in my garden, a friend tossed questions at me.

“No, I don’t. The pitchers attract foraging, flying, crawling insects through nectar bribes. Their prey-trapping mechanism features a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap,” I began with an easy explanation. “Once the insect falls inside the pitcher, it is dissolved and digested. Think of the dead insects as the plant’s granola energy bar”.

Nepthenes Viking Hybrid in the author’s garden. Nepthenes Viking Hybrid in the author’s garden.

My friend was not convinced about the meat-eating habits of the Nepthenes Mirabilis. I could cut open the stomach of a pitcher to reveal the bodies of dead ants, insects and centipedes. But before I could wield the scalpel and give her a peek into the pitcher graveyard, she dropped a jaw at the insect-gourmand Sundew in a tiny pot. The Sundew has no pitchers, its hairy leaves have saccharide-based traps.

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“But how?” The friend was persistent with questions. Ironical as it may sound, the vegetarian I collect and grow carnivorous plants in my garden. But as an amateur gardener I do not have technical mastery over the carnivorous plants and their cultivars.

Close-up of Nepthenes Mirabilis, a variety of pitcher plant. Close-up of Nepthenes Mirabilis, a variety of pitcher plant.

Perhaps a better idea would have been to connect her to K. Shivaramakrishnan who talks of carnivores as one does of bosom pals. Founder and owner of Forest Studio (K K Nagar, Chennai), Shiva (he is mostly known by his abridged name), a computational biologist in IIT-Chennai (his day job is to digitise monkey and mouse brains) has 82 species in his personal collection, of which only 19 species are for sale.

A seed-grown Nepenthes rajah in Forest Studio is worth Rs 60,000 while Nepenthes truncata can cost around Rs 25,000.

“There are nearly 40 recorded species of Utricularia (carnivorous aquatic plants) that are widely endemic to the Indian ecosystem. The highly-endangered Pinguicula alpine is also indigenous to India. There are less than a few hundreds in the wild and can only be spotted in the mountain ranges of the Himalayas above 5000-metre altitude during the spring when they come out of their 8-month long dormancy,” says Shiva.

Nepthenes Mirabilis in the author’s garden. Nepthenes Mirabilis in the author’s garden.

One of the most detailed information on India’s carnivorous plants is the website of Environment Information Centre (ENVIS) Resource Partner on Biodiversity ( It lists and describes India’s four different species of Droseraceae, 39 varieties of Lentibulariceae and one variety of Nepthaceae.

Insect-eating doctor: India’s only known pitcher plant species is Nepthenes khasiana which is endemic to Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. Now classified as endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, it is also included in the Negative List of Exports of the Government of India.

According to ENVIS, the fluid of unopened pitchers of Nepthenes khasiana are used by Khasi and Garo tribes as eye drops to cure cataract and night blindness, and in treating stomach troubles, diabetes and gynaecological problems. The pitcher with its contents is made into a paste and is applied on affected parts of leprosy patients.

Carnivorous Sundew in the author’s collection of carnivorous plants. Carnivorous Sundew in the author’s collection of carnivorous plants.

Though difficult to grow and sustain, interest in carnivorous plants has seen a spurt lately.

“Due to social media the demand for exotic plants is ever on the increase. Facebook selling and reselling and the race to get more likes on pictures on all platforms has increased the demand. Plants are not easy to maintain and some require elaborate setup. This gives it an edge and thus lends exclusivity to the hobby”, says Lt Col Maneet S Dawra (Retd), owner of Plantae Paradise. His nursery in village Datyar, Parwanoo (Himachal Pradesh) has carnivorous Sarracenias and 5 types of Pinguiculas.

In the two years, Forest Studio has witnessed a 200-300 percent growth in orders, with Delhi and West Bengal accounting for the largest numbers of buyers/collectors. The COVID pandemic has, however, stalled the dream run. “Disrupted shipment routes and quarantines have crippled everything. Orders have dropped sharply as we are not able to import or export anything,” says Shiva.

The 6-inch carnivorous plant that I had bought from Vinay Gardens in Kozhikode (Kerala) has now grown into a tall statuesque plant with countless pitchers dangling at the end of its broad leaves. In two years, a battalion of ants, hundred-legged centipedes and flies have been lured to their death inside those pitchers. Am I guilty of arranging their death?

Drosera Scorpioides. Drosera Scorpioides.

Good to know:

If you want to import carnivorous plants, check for permissible varieties, Import Permit and Phytosanitary Certificate.

According to the official website, the import of live plants and seeds imported for propagation/sowing purpose are permitted entry only through notified ports, namely, Amritsar, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.

Venus Flytrap. Venus Flytrap.

For details on cultivated carnivorous plants, visit Read extracts from Carnivorous Plant Newsletter (CPN), the official publication of the International Carnivorous Plant Society on the website.

Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.  Source

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