Over one hundred perfectly normal folks came out for the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society’s Annual Plant Show and sale Sunday, Aug. 24 at the UC Botanical Garden.
Held during an uncommonly beautiful and sunny summer day, attendees from all over the Bay Area viewed exotic, prize-winning botanical specimens, won numerous raffle prizes and had the opportunity to purchase rare carnivorous plants.
“It was fabulous,” said Shannan Hobbs, a volunteer propagator at the Botanical Garden. “I saw some things here that I’ve never seen before.”
Indicating a tall and spindly plant with a head of foliage that could have been designed by Dr. Seuss, Hobbs proudly identified her prized purchase of the day. “I got a byblis here, one called a Rainbow plant.”
The Rainbow plant will join 40 other carnivorous plants in Hobbs’s Oakland backyard.
“We have a very mild climate, also Oakland water can be used directly because it’s very, very low particulate water. I filter it with a Brita filter but that’s not getting out much,” said Hobbs. “They’re a little fussier than some plants, but our climate is so mild a lot of them can grow here, especially the sarracenias [pitcher plants]. A lot of people don’t know how well they do here.”
Hobbs first became enchanted with carnivorous plants as a teaching docent at the Botanical Gardens. “Not only do they have good novelty value, but they’re a great entree for teaching young people about plants. You can show them all these other adaptations that plants make. It’s a really good way to introduce them to other plants, subtler plants.”
Some of the flesh-eating plants Hobbs propagates will be for sale at the Botanical Garden’s biannual Fall Plant Sale on Sunday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Selma Rockett of North Oakland attended the show with her sister Barbara Alperen, who’s visiting from the Virgin Islands.
“My sister has beautiful gardens,” said Rockett. “I thought that she would enjoy this and the [plants] are fascinating.”
Rockett left with several carnivorous plants, a first for her own garden.
Marvin Quick of Albany came with his adult daughter, Stephanie Quick.
“My wife Doris has been collecting carnivorous planets for over ten years,” said father Quick. “We’ve got a lot … well, I should say we don’t have a lot compared to what most people have… we’ve got the standard backyard fare, but if you looked in our backyard you’d say, ‘Where did all these strange plants come from?’ But since we don’t have an actual hot house, there’re some things she can’t grow.”
Rather than collecting carnivorous plants, daughter Stephanie Quick collects caudiciform succulents.
“It’s another weird plant, like the baobab tree—that would be the most famous one. They can go dormant and then look like a gnarly stick so you get people saying, ‘Is that thing alive?’” she said, laughing.
“It’s always fun to see people who are enthusiastic about stuff,” her father said. “You get a different sort of a person, and they’re much more active. You see guys that barely look like they’re out of their teenage years and they’ll have all these plants. They did it not because they had huge amounts of money but because they were able to figure out how to get a small plant and grow it.”
One of those youngsters was Nick Johnson, a 14-year-old freshman entering Skyline High School. Johnson purchased several highly prized carnivorous plants during the Society’s rare plant auction. He currently cultivates over 100 different carnivorous plants, some in his bedroom and others outside in his backyard bog.
“I really liked them but I didn’t really get into them until about two years ago when I found Peter D’Amato’s book, “Savage Garden.” I read that a couple hundred times and then I went up to his nursery in Sebastopol and it just kicked off from there.”
With his mother’s approval Johnson has created a large bog in their Montclair backyard.
“They’re beautiful, magnificent plants and Nick has been teaching me so much. I learn from him, constantly. It’s a wonderful thing for a mother to be sharing with her son,” she said.
“He’s always had passions and this is his latest passion. He’s learning so much. He investigated how to build a bog garden on his own. He put the whole thing together and he truly made it on his own.”
“I’m definitely interested in botany. It’s really rewarding seeing how the plants grow,” said the younger Johnson. “I want to do something [with plants] in my career. If I’m not working actually with them all the time, maybe something on the side.”
Darryl Price of North Oakland brought his daughter Jessica to see the plants. They went home with two new insect-eating plants for their household.
“I’ve been interested in carnivorous plants since I was a teenager,” said father Price. “I’ve had pitcher plants and Venus flytraps but I’ve never had these. This is in the Sundew family and this one is a bladder plant.”
Jessica, who attends St. Martin de Porres Junior High School was not impressed.
“They’re nasty,” she said. “They’re trapping spiders and ants and flies and bees. I really don’t like them. I like flowers.”
Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society maintains a presence on the web at http://www.bacps.org.
The UC Botanical Garden holds in annual Fall Plant Sale from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28.
For more information, call the Garden at 643-2755 or visit them on the web at http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/.