It all started so innocently. Simply pondering a solution turned into an obsession.
We try our best at Cuyahoga SWCD to practice the Three R's of Waste Management (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). For a long time, we were using a countertop compost bin in our kitchen. Well as many of you fellow countertop composters know, this led to an issue with fruit flies and fungus gnats. I have this issue at home as well. I don't know about you, but those little buggers work my last nerve! It has gotten to the point of deterring us from using our little bin unless we keep it out on the deck. Well, that's not very convenient and a lack of convenience is another deterrent for many people. So that got me thinking about possible solutions.
About the same time last year, a friend of mine posted some photos of the carnivorous plants he's been growing, and a lightbulb went off in my head. I sent him a message and asked him what species he thought would do well in a kitchen window that doesn't get a lot of direct sunlight, eats these types of insects, and where to get them, etc. So, it began....
After a lot research and contemplation over the last year I am proud to announce the addition of our new office carnivorous plant babies! Two species of sundews and six species of butterworts that were recommended as easy to grow and could be grown indoors, all non-natives, but still awesome. Most need full sun and so you may need a grow light like I do.
As I awaited their arrival, I dove headfirst down the rabbit hole that is the world of carnivorous plants. I have spent hours since reading about them and watching videos to educate myself on their care and characteristics. I have learned so many cool facts about them and all of the many other carnivorous plant species out there. I always thought Venus flytraps and pitcher plants were kind of cool and only really knew of those two types. I had no idea how very amazing and very diverse carnivorous plants actually are!
Carnivorous plants, like other native plants, have now become an obsession for me. The more I learn the more I want to grow them all! However, they aren't as easy to grow as many of our other native plants. Since they come from very specific habitat, they are very sensitive and require very simple, yet specific, care.
These ancient plants can be found in bogs on every continent of the world accept Antarctica. Ohio's native carnivorous plants include the Northern Pitcher Plant, two species of Sundews, and a variety of Bladderwort species. The soil of bogs is created mostly from decaying plants and therefore has very little in the way of oxygen and nutrients. Most plants get their nutrients from the soil, so these bog plants had to figure out a different way to survive.
Over time their leaves evolved to find another source of nutrients, by using them to trap and digest insects and other tiny creatures. Just like other plant and animal species, different plants evolved different types of traps to do this (pitfall, flypaper, snap, and bladder). Bladderworts are a little different as they trap tiny microorganisms in the soil or water. Since they do not absorb nutrients from the soil, they are very sensitive when it comes to nutrients that get added to soil. It is for this reason that when growing them you can only use distilled, reverse osmosis (RO), or rain water. The extra nutrients and minerals in tap or filtered water will build up in the soil and kill them. So, to me when growing them indoors this says added bonus. That gives us an opportunity to harvest rainwater! Helping us to compost waste and helping to reduce stormwater runoff just like our important bog habitats.
Like other types of wetlands, bogs offer important habitat for unique plant, animal, and insect species and they serve an important role in absorbing, filtering, and controlling stormwater runoff. This is very important for diversity, helpful for the quality of our water, and in reducing flooding. In addition, where do you think the peat moss and sphagnum moss you use for gardening naturally comes from? Yup, you guessed it, bogs.
Unfortunately, just like other types of wetlands, bogs are rapidly disappearing due to development and with them all of the unique and helpful qualities they have. Would you like to experience a bog first hand and see all of the cool things they have to offer? Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio "is the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio." More locally, you can visit Cooperrider-Kent Bog State Nature Preserve and Triangle Lake Bog State Nature Preserve.
I can say from personal experience how cool those two locations are. It was at these bogs in Kent and Ravenna, respectively, that I first saw wild pitcher plants, cranberries, and sphagnum moss so thick it looked like a lovely floating green carpet that moved with the slow waves. As you walk the boardwalk along the bog be sure to look down and see the beautiful carnivorous rosettes of the pitcher plants and the glistening sundews beckoning insects to come their way.
With their unique designs, gorgeous colors, pretty flowers, they are helping us compost waste by solving our fly issues and helping to reduce stormwater runoff! These plants are pretty frigging awesome and as you can see everything is connected and every little thing we do impacts something else in a big way, even teeny bladderworts and little sundews.
Blog Author: Kelly Parker, Stormwater Specialist II
Carnivorous plants are sold at various local nurseries and online.