The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Former Florida habitat

Conservation and Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants, like amphibians, are sentinels of the general quality of our environment. One of the first things to disappear when a wetland habitat degrades is its carnivorous plants. More than 95% of the carnivorous plant habitat in the USA alone has been destroyed. Every year, I hear of many places where carnivorous plants once lived but is now only a grocery store, parking lot, or mowed field. Compared to 50 years ago, we have nearly lost all our carnivorous plant heritage. The crumbs that are left are pathetic. And in another 50 years, will there be anything at all left?

You do not have to be a devoted conservationist to be concerned about carnivorous plants in the wild. Many hobbyists who might not consider themselves particularly "green" find that their interest in carnivorous plants inevitably leads them to concern about wild habitats. I think this is because carnivorous plants are not very domesticated. Ask gardeners where their tomato plants are native to (South America, by the way), and they will reward you with blank looks. In contrast, most carnivorous plant growers will be able to tell you the country, and perhaps even state or province their plants originated (even if their plants have been in cultivation for many decades). Awareness of the plants in the wild seems to lead to an interest in the conservation status of the wild plants.

For me, the progression towards being a diehard conservationist went as follows. But my story is not unique! S. flava
Sarracenia flava

  1. Originally I only grew carnivorous plants. All else was eschewed. (For some others, there are often related interests in other specialty topics, such as lizards or cacti, but that is for another FAQ.)
  2. I became interested in other wetland plants, particularly bog orchids. I started dreaming about visiting carnivorous plant habitats.
  3. The trips began. Snakes, quaking Sphagnum mats, mosquitoes, suspicious locals, and incredulous stares from astonished mates were all endured so I could locate plants in the wild. Poison ivy, ticks, thorns and fangs were irrelevant when the hunt was on.
  4. Occasionally I followed directions to an "incredible site", only to find a new housing development or shopping mall. Tears fell.
  5. Eventually, I was transformed into something of a naturalist, with a passionate love for wetlands, carnivorous plants in general, and an overall concern for the environment.
  6. In an excessive act, I changed professions to work for a conservation nonprofit (The Nature Conservancy). Even more, I volunteer for other conservation nonprofits such as the International Carnivorous Plant Society.

It is natural that there is a large cross-over between the carnivorous plant enthusiast and an interest in conservation.

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018