Critters · Garden

The Little Sundew That Could and Still Does

Meet George.

Hi, my name is George.

George is my Cape Sundew carnivorous plant, or in the fancy Latin, Drosera capensis. The only creature in our household who has been a pet longer than George is one of the cats. I have had this plant for almost a decade, and I think we both look pretty good for our age.

Why would I get a carnivorous plant in the first place? Well, it was because of the flies.

Rewind the tape to many moons ago, when my partner and I have been cohabitating for a year or two in a tiny apartment. My partner grew up composting kitchen scraps his entire life, and introduced me to this practice. Now that we lived in a place where we could actually compost the scraps, I made a concerted effort to be A Good Composter.

Compost can be smelly, slimy, and generally a glorious wonderland for fruit flies if you don’t take the time to keep it covered. Enter me and my general ignorance about this process (be kind, I was young! I knew not my future would involve ever more compost!) and I regularly forgot to cover the compost.

At first, there were a couple of fruit flies flying around the kitchen. The little devils are stupid hard to squish. I resolved to be good about covering the counter compost bin, and thought nothing of it. But alas. I did not know that fruit flies put rabbits to shame in their speed and magnitude of procreation.

Soon it was a full blown SWARM in my kitchen. It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t squish them fast enough. We removed the compost, we set out vinegar traps, we did it ALL and yet, the fruit flies maintained their war of insect aggression. I had to find an additional weapon against them. Because I love bizarre plants, I had a venus fly trap in college so I thought AHA I WILL INTRODUCE A PREDATOR.

Fun fact? Venus fly traps really aren’t good at culling large populations of flies, despite their moniker. My spiny college friend ate maybe one insect in its entire life before its untimely death at the hand of a klutzy roommate.

I turn on my research machine and look for what plant could help me. Pitcher plants are too fussy and huge and my cats would try to eat them. Venus fly traps are not helpful. And then I found it. A SUNDEW.

These little plants are relatively un-fussy, not super toxic, and are pretty to boot with their little fronds covered with dew-drops-of-death. I drive to a local cactus store who happens to ironically also carry a wide variety of carnivorous, bog-living plants and pick out George.

Despite an initial assault by the cats, George flourished in the little window above our sink. And I mean FLOURISHED. The flies didn’t have a chance. Within a week, the fruit fly population was down to manageable levels, and after a month they were gone. Gone, I tell you! I was in disbelief.

So young, so wee, yet so hungry.

George was so pleased with himself he threw up flower stems left and right. Soon his tiny little pot was full of Georgettes vying for space. I had to take him back to the cactus store to separate him from his brood (my track record for repotting is …unfortunate) and soon my sink window was full of more tiny pots.

The fire marshal would have something to say about this situation.

The Georgettes were given to other homes to flourish, and George continues to hold pride of place in our kitchen sink window. Occasionally, I mash flat an interloping mosquito and place it delicately on George’s scarlet dewdrop’d fronds, because he deserves a treat every now and then.

Pride of place in the location with the least likelihood being accidentally knocked into the sink. That’s love.

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