Super Fly

As Peanut developed his birthday present wish list this year, he got engaged in a writing project in class. They’re working on nonfiction writing, and are researching to become experts, then writing a book with catchy chapter titles. It’s incredible to watch.

Peanut chose to cultivate expertise in carnivorous plants. We worked together on how to group the information. Should Venus flytraps be their own chapter? Should all pitcher plants be their own chapter? Should the plant types come up only incidentally as he writes about the ways in which carnivorous plants lure, catch, and digest their prey?

One morning, on a hike, a lovely friend asked Peanut what he was working on in school. And as he explained it, another friend turned to me and asked if we knew about the local carnivorous plant nursery. What in the holy awesome?!…No, we didn’t.

Then that night, a brainy science-y toy catalog came in the mail. Peanut leafed through and found a carnivorous plant terrarium. What in the amazing coincidence?!….Cool!

I didn’t know you can just go to Sonoma County and buy a Venus flytrap and a sundew. I didn’t know you could have them in and around your home. Neither, it turns out, did my expert. He thought they were magical tropical rarities, not local realities.

So I offered to take him and to buy some plants for his birthday. He lit up like a dancer allowed backstage at the Nutcracker.

The guy who toured us around the nursery got his first bug-devouring plant when he was 11. And he still has it.

Peanut is 9. And now is the proud owner of a pitcher plant, sundew, and Venus flytrap. Not the WKRP kind. The real kind.

He even talked me into getting his brother a carnivorous plant. Because he’s awesome that way.


pitcher plant half full of insect devouring acid. Now living on my desk in case of trolls.


Small people mining the yard for flytrap prey. Together. Without fighting. Nothing brings brothers together like sacrificing insects to plants.


The three Musketeers, saving us from wayward aphids one drop of acid at a time.


Venus Flytrap. Note the shriveled, black head at about 4:00 on this plant. The heads can only close 2-3 times, and if they don’t catch something tasty, they go black. All heads go black, the plant dies. Somewhat like the dreams of academics.


Sundew. All those droplets are acid. D. capillaris, for those who care. Pink sundew.


Sundew for the brother. Cape sundew. D. capensis. Proud devourer of six aphids this afternoon. Score!

9 thoughts on “Super Fly

  1. I think I’ve learned more since my first child was born than I ever learned in school. He asks, I answer–or, more often, look it up and then answer–and then all of a sudden, I know way more about the animal life of the last ice age than I ever thought I would. Just yesterday I learned why the barns around here are almost always painted red.

    Sometimes the neverending questions can be wearing, but generally, it’s pretty cool.

    • Don’t leave me hanging. Why are the barns around there almost always red? Is it snow related? Is it livestock visibility related? Is it paint availability related?

      • Before commercial paints, farmers made their own linseed-oil-based stain to protect the wood of the barns, and they discovered that adding rust prevented mold from forming, so their homemade stuff was a kind of burnt orange. (Another theory to explain this color was that farmers added the blood of recently-slaughtered animals to the mixture, but the rust theory makes more sense to me.)

        Then, when commercial paints became available, red was the cheapest color, and also similar to the color of their homemade kind. Whitewash was also used for a time, and you’ll still see some white barns around here. Different areas of the country have different color traditions, though. In tobacco-growing regions, black or brown is traditional because it helped to cure the tobacco.

  2. oh man…this is really cool. Probably a bit advanced for my kiddos (2 and 1) but my nephew is so into gardening and nature and would love this! He just had a birthday and we got him a root viewer (basically three connected plastic tubes and you plant different vegetables in each tube and watch them grow)- but this would be a great addition to that.

      • cool idea! I will need to pass these along! My 2.5 year old and I planted some flowers in a pot today and she asked some really great questions…maybe we can start too! enjoy spring!

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