Archive for the ‘Carnivorous plants’ Category

My Nepenthes Singapore Garden Tech (ampullaria Brunei Red x ventricosa) has come full circle.

I paid a handsome price for a juvenile, barely two inches across. I saw this grow into a robust plant with luscious red pitchers. It was just gorgeous.

And then the nightmare happened. I went on a two-week holiday and returned to find it with curled up leaves and bone-dry media. I quickly soaked it in water.

But the plant never fully recovered. It didn’t pitcher anymore and was just a shadow of its old self.

Finally after more than half a year of waiting for Nature to heal itself, I separated the basals and tried to root the stems. The basals quickly whittled away and I was left with just two scrawny stems. I willed them to root – they just had to!

The waiting game began. Two months on, there was still nothing to show for it. A couple more months later, I thought I saw something through the transparent cup. Yes! It was the beginnings of a root!

Once this happened, the momentum picked up and the roots grew steadily. Then came surprise number two; small reddish pitchers appeared!

Finally, two weeks ago, I removed the rooted cuttings from the cup. Each had a few small basals; my third surprise! I potted them with as much care as one would have handled a newborn.

As I held up two pots of the feisty rooted cuttings, I saw the loveliness that is to be.

Care and cultivation: mix of peat moss, pine bark, sand and perlite; bright light, slightly shielded from the hot afternoon sun; water generously. Propagate using cuttings or basals.

the original plant; its potential 🙂

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It has deadly fangs. I can’t understand the logic. The idea is for insects and small creatures to fall into the pitcher and drown. But the sight of the fangs should actually send them running for cover.

Unfortunately for insects, the lure of the nectar-producing pitcher seems to be too strong. Many curious ants have slipped and fallen into the digestive fluids.

I too have fallen prey to the lure of the fangs. I was bitten by the bicalcarata fever two years ago when I saw and bought my first bicalcarata. It was just a flimsy, delicate juvenile barely 10 cm across.


A friend warned me that the adult bical would be big. I wasn’t too worried; it would be years before my bical would be a cause for concern.


Since then, I’ve acquired a couple more; each with different coloration but with the same trademark fangs just under the lid.

And each time I see a lovely bical, I have to resist the temptation. It looks as though I have been well and truly bitten.

Care and propagation
: mix of peat moss, pine bark, sand and perlite; moss topping; bright light, slightly shielded from the hot afternoon sun; water generously. Propagate from seed, using cuttings or by separating basal plants.

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“We’re starting the monthly plant competitions again – but only with the nepenthes. Will you support the competition? Just send us a photo of your plant.”

It was a modest online nepenthes competition with no prizes at stake. Did I want to enter?

I had seen my friends prepare for these competitions. And it involved almost-professionally-taken-photos shot with sophisticated (read ‘expensive’) cameras. Mine is a modest point-and-shoot model.

“I’ll try.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to compete but I also didn’t want to disappoint my friend.

I had a look around the next day; a few of the neps actually looked quite decent. At least I wouldn’t be too embarrassed when they were eventually posted online, I thought.

I snapped the photos and sent them off. Then I waited for the results of the members’ poll.

My Nepenthes ampullaria x ventricosa (Singapore Gardentech) which I had bought as a juvenile just 15 months ago was neck and neck with another plant; and that was how it ended.

The Gardentech won by a whisker. There may not have been a prize but nothing beats the satisfaction that it was deemed worthy of being a winner.

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I’d look out for plump flying ants whenever it rains the night before. Fortunately for me, the recent rains brought some.

They swarm around the lights outside the house and invariably find their way indoors. So I’d get them – before they get in.

I swing my flyswatter around with as much panache as a swashbuckler and my roguish grin widens with each ant I drop into a container.


Okay, so it’s a bumper crop of ants with plump heads and abdomens. But much as I appreciate exotic food like fried caterpillars and grasshoppers, these ants are not destined for my dinner plate.

They’re meant for my Gobbleguts … I think my pitcher plants know I have a treat in store for them.

I kept the ants for a couple of days before using them, so they ended up smelling like fermented shrimps. But I think the pitchers are not going to be too picky.

True enough, they had their mouths open impatiently for their share this morning. The smaller pitchers had an ant or two, while bigger ones gobbled a few more.


I had enough ants for both Tropical and North American pitcher plants. Most of them had seconds and a couple had an extra treat of fresh juicy caterpillars.

They’re truly Gobbleguts indeed.

Wait … did I hear a burp?

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These ground-hugging squat pitchers look like nature’s tea-cups or shot glasses. Except that I wouldn’t want to take a sip of its slimy cocktail of drowned insects.

But ampullaria pitchers are lovely with their wide lips and narrow lids. There are two sorts of pitchers; aerial pitchers and basal ones. The aerial pitchers are cute enough, but the basal pitchers have the X factor.

Basal pitchers grow underground near the stem base. Tiny pudgy babies push their way through the carpet of moss when you least expect them to.

They are like nice surprises; like an unexpected gift under the Christmas tree.

I used to think there were just two forms of ampullaria; the green and the red. And I started off buying the green one; not out of choice but because it was the only one available then.

It didn’t last long; I killed my first few plants by watering them with water from my fish tank.

Then I realized that CPs were unlike regular garden plants. What other plants thrive on spell disaster to them.

My next ampu was also a green one; and the third as well.

Then someone gave me a pot of ampullaria hot lips! It doesn’t take much of an imagination to conjure a pair of pouting scarlet lips.

...getting a piggyback

Then I discovered how myopic I had been.


There were other ampullaria – red pitchers with pink lips, red with yellow lips, green with red lips, speckled with red lips, red with striped lips…

There were also ampullarias that had three colours, ampullarias which were a pink blush, those which were heavily blotched with rich dark colours …

The list goes on.

Of these, the Singapore Gardentech is perhaps the most outstanding with its startling red pitchers but then it isn’t a pure ampullaria having been crossed with the nepenthes ventricosa.

I would love to have a name for each of my ampullaria, but it’s also all right if I never found out.




Care and cultivation: mix of peat moss, pine bark, sand and perlite; moss topping; bright light, slightly shielded from the hot afternoon sun; water generously; take extra care when transplanting as there could be basal pitchers beneath the surface

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Gobble Guts – that’s how some people refer to carnivorous plants Down Under.  I thought it was cute.

Perhaps the comic touch makes them seem a little less macabre. Gobble Guts, Jungle Jaws, whatever … I love them all.

What fun it must be to have a CP garden in Australia.

With so many CPs being native to the country and the numerous CP suppliers Down Under, your only problem must be to stop your CP plants from colonizing the garden.

I found a couple of stalls offering CPs at the Melbourne Flower and Garden show. As expected, the prices varied.

So, as with everything else, it pays to do a price comparison, but I don’t suppose these words of wisdom can be heard when all those Gobble Guts start calling out for attention.

I tried to persuade my Melbourne-based friend to get a pot of CPs. “They’re adorable,” I said. “You’ll love them.” But she wasn’t convinced; maybe the term ‘Gobble Guts’ just isn’t cute enough.   😀

Towards the tail end of my holidays, I came across another CP stall at weekend market. The prices seemed more competitive, but I could be wrong. After visiting innumerable shops and stalls from Melbourne to Mornington, I couldn’t be sure anymore.

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Yuks. What a name.

When someone asked me if I was keen to buy one, I actually sniffed and said “I think not.”

But I changed my tune as soon as I googled and saw a picture. This hybrid is a real beauty. A cross between nepenthes ventricosa and ampullaria, this nepenthes looks like neither parent, shape-wise.

The pitchers of the nepenthes Gardetech are a lovely red – much like that of a nice red apple. And I have a weakness for red pitchers.

Not surprisingly, the Gardentech came with a daunting price tag. So I had to forget about getting a large or even medium size plant. I settled for the smallest – and even that didn’t come cheap.

The plant joined the family in September last year. It had a few pitchers, all gorgeously red. I placed it next to my mirabilis, exposed to morning sun from nine till 1pm. It should be happy, I thought.

But, the Gardentech had other ideas. It pouted and sulked. The pitchers turned a dull red and no new pitchers formed. Worse, the leaves broke out in spots and were marred by unsightly blotches. It was in trouble.

I figured that its new home didn’t agree with it and moved it elsewhere before anything else happened. I bought it a shade cloth and hung the pot amongst two other nepenthes to keep it company. That was in November.

A couple of months passed with no visible difference in the plant. And then in February, it started to perk up. It threw out one red pitcher, and then another.

Today, the Gardentech looks a look better than it has done for a long time. The red pitchers look ripe for the picking. I just hope the squirrels don’t agree with me.




Care and cultivation: mix of peat moss, pine bark, sand and perlite; moss topping; bright light, slightly shielded from the hot afternoon sun; water generously

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Grasshoppers, anyone?

The cluster of grasshoppers on my thunbergia erecta didn’t know what hit them. First, they were surveying my plants and wondering what to munch and devour first. Next, I turned the tables on them.

I bagged the lot. There were 83. Imagine how much havoc these little critters would have wrecked in the garden. Imagine leaves and plants munched to the ground …

What can one do with so many grasshoppers? I love fried grasshopper snacks but I didn’t think I’d be allowed to fry these in our kitchen.

But I knew who else would love to have these snacks. My carnivorous plants!

But feeding the venus flytraps live grasshoppers proved to be challenging. I almost let all the grasshoppers escape a couple of times as I tried to hang onto too many things all at once. After struggling with the first 7 live snacks, I was ready to surrender.

Alvin, a forumer friend gave me a great idea. Put the grasshoppers in the fridge for a while, he said. They’ll go off to sleep and won’t jump all over then.

I went one step further and left them in the freezer for a few minutes. I think I sent them to sleep permanently but at least they were a lot easier to handle now.

The venus flytraps closed too quickly on a couple of occasions and I had to prise the traps open to push the grasshoppers in. 

          (Feeding the pink venus)

        (Feeding the shark’s teeth)

Feeding the VFTs was fun, but I knew I had to restrain myself from going overboard.

The sarracenias were a lot easier to feed. Their cavernous mouths were not about to close on the pincers. In fact I could have tipped the whole bag of grasshoppers down their throats and they would have room for more. But 83 grasshoppers don’t go a long way when you have so many traps and pitchers to feed.

As I dropped one last grasshopper down the throat of a Juthatip Soper, I could almost hear it saying, “Thanks for the snack. Now how about a drink to wash it down?”

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I did my first leaf-pull when I found a distorted leaf with a blackened trap.

Since it wasn’t looking its best it didn’t seem too much of a sacrifice to experiment with it.

After a few weeks, I saw a nub forming at the base of the leaf. This soon became a baby dionaea muscipula pink venus with its own miniature traps.

It was my first! I was thrilled and I knew I was going to try again.    

Today I found 2 more leaves with blackened traps. More leaf-pull material! I loathe using perfect leaves with good traps.   😛

Here’s how I did the leaf-pull:

1. Isolate the leaf.

2. Tug the leaf carefully at a downward angle away from the plant so that you get the whole leaf right down to its white base.

3. Lay the leaf on a bed of moistened long fibre sphagnum. Cut off the trap if it is black.

4. Cover a bit of the base with some of the sphagnum moss.

5. Sit this in a shallow dish of water in bright light but away from full sun.

6. Wait for signs of growth and move to a position in full sun.


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IMG_0243_vftMy pink venus loves the sun.

Since moving it to the front of the garden where it enjoys the sun all day, it has responded well and thrown out more leaves and traps. Even the colour has deepened.

baby vftThe plantlet that grew from a leaf I had stuck into the sphagnum moss is growing as well, and  is currently about 1 cm across.  

Now I’m quite tempted to pull a few more vft leaves …   😀



Here’s an update on the baby after 2 months:

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