Where the wild things are/are not.
February 24, 2009 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Poaching – not pears, not birds, but plants. In the feed-me-Seymour vein of green and growing things, these are the plants that eat things – too bad they aren’t able to defend themselves from people and habitat loss. But wait! There’s help on the way.

A notice calling for people to volunteer to replant poached Venus Fly Traps grabs your attention. Seems there are folks who are in charge of looking after the little creatures and their habitat: “Plants are a challenge because they don’t have big brown eyes and fur,” said Tom Chisdock, when discussing public perception of the plant’s protected status.

When a species is being threatened not only because of habitat loss but also because it’s easy pickings, and when the fine is $35 per event (not per plant) it’s pretty hard to deter the poachers. For legitimate resale, the plants are cultivated in greenhouses; however they aren’t fond of captivity and are difficult for the home grower to keep alive.

And, what if the folks collecting the plants are semi-official? Alert advocates help. A conversation on a carnivorous plant message board went all out in identifying a situation where an aquarium was collect/poach/harvesting the plants. A discussion ensued and the response was an open letter reply by the director of Husbandry: “When we have ventured into the field, our practices have been consistent with ICPS policy regarding collection.”
Yeah, they do it, but it’s OK because they are doing it within guidelines.
posted by mightshould (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Simple, really. All the flytraps just need to slap the poachers in the face and growl out "Does this look inanimate to you, punk?"

Really, it's just evolution.
posted by Mali at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2009

I was at the local 99 cent store recently, and there was a whole endcap of Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants. Seemed very strange, as the only place I'd seen Pitcher Plants before was Palau, where they grow like, uh.. a thing that grows but also eats meat, I guess. If there's a paucity of them, it's not causing the price to go up. Hopefully the lack of profit will cause people to leave them alone. Personally, I've always thought the Sensitive Plant was much cooler, anyway.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 1:52 PM on February 24, 2009

I've had a few fly traps when I was a kid, but they never lasted long. The fact that you could buy these quite easily across the United States makes me think of fate of Passenger pigeons, (which was surprisingly not the only animal to be excommunicated).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:05 PM on February 24, 2009

Pitcher plants are definitely one cool family of carnivorous plants. Just clicking around, I found this relative of the pineapple, which lures insects into its own personal drowning pool in the center of its leaf spread where "enzymes and bacteria digest the trapped insects and thus release the nutrients for absorption by the leaves."

I've always wondered how some plants develop this means of nutrition. "Hm ... something crawling on me ... wonder if it's tasty?" is probably off-base.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tip for people who want to keep flytraps (or other carnivorous plants alive): only water them with rainwater or distilled. Tap water kills them.
posted by bradbane at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2009

The pitcher plant is the official flower of Newfoundland. I'm not sure what the symbolism is, but I like it. It's a common sight whenever I went hiking. Didn't act as effectively as it could have: I still got eaten alive by the insects.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2009

When a species is being threatened not only because of habitat loss but also because it’s easy pickings, and when the fine is $35 per event (not per plant) it’s pretty hard to deter the poachers.

mightshould, Dionaea muscupula (the Venus Flytrap) is protected under the CITES treaty, which allows sentencing up to 5 years incarceration and/or a fine of $250,000.

A wee bit more deterrence than you suggested. Nonetheless, when the crime is as difficult as scooping up a palm-sized plant with 1/4"-deep roots from the ground and throwing them in wet spaghnum, it isn't deterrent enough.

Loves me the insectivores - used to raise them. VFTs breed like wildflowers (um, because they are!); I got so psyched when I saw my first white flower shoots!
posted by IAmBroom at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2009

one cool family of carnivorous plants

Even cooler, more than one:

We now know that the carnivorous habit evolved independently in many plant lineages (Albert et al., 1992; Ellison and Gotelli, 2001; Cameron et al., 2002; Muller et al., 2004). Pitfall traps evolved independently in four plant groups (the eudicot orders Caryophyllales, Oxalidales, Ericales, and the monocot family Bromeliaceae), and sticky traps, in at least three (the Caryophyllales, Ericales, and Lamiales). These are examples of convergent evolution.

(per the Botanical Society of America)
posted by gimonca at 7:58 PM on February 24, 2009

Filthy Light Thief: Your excommunication link made my head hurt. Is that translated from a non-English language, like maybe Batshitinsane?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2009

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