What if I told you there was a plant, beloved the world over, that only grows in a small sliver of the United States? And I mean small: this plant’s range only extends 100 miles from the southern bit of North Carolina to the northern tip of South Carolina. Of course that is it’s natural range. Now this plant can be seen the world over growing in botanic gardens or cultivated by collectors. And all because it eats a little meat…
Of course I am talking about the famous Venus Flytrap. Discovered in the 18th century, the plant became a instant treasure of the colonies, beguiling curious collectors of all types: from the farmers of the new world all the way to the Queen of England. It was first described by Governor of North Carolina Author Dobbs in a letter to English botanist Peter Collinson dated April 2, 1759. In it, he commented that:
We have a kind of Catch Fly Sensitive which closes upon any thing that touches it. It grows in Latitude 34 but not in 35. I will try to save the seed here.
Dobbs then welcomed Philadelphia plant collector William Bartram to his home to examine this new curious plant. William brought specimens home to his father, the famous botanist (and fellow friend of Peter Collinson) John Bartram. The Batrams were immediately smitten with the plant. They were the first to successfully cultivate the plant outside of its native range in their greenhouses along the Schuylkill River. John is credited with sending the first herbarium specimens of the plant to Peter Collinson for study. Collinson, in turn, provided the specimens to fellow botanists including John Ellis and later, Linnaeus.
But no one at this point had been able to collect seeds to send to Collinson in England. Remember this fact, it will become important later.
Ok, now it’s time to get down to the really raunchy stuff! Continue reading