EDIT: A lesson to everyone, learned at my expense. I was certain that I was looking at D. regia here, but Ryan Kitko and a slew of other friends kindly noted “I hate to say this, but I think you have a Drosera filiformis instead of a Drosera regia here. Thankfully, I had my original receipt on hand, and discovered that what I had been calling “Drosera regia” really was D. filiformis after all. That said, if Black Jungle offers D. regia, buy one at once, and also consider that D. filiformis makes a great mosquito snare in the greenhouse, too. And now I take that tasty crow and turn it into a sandwich.
Way back in the Eighties, when pterosaurs soared through the skies, VCRs cost most people nearly a month’s pay, and nobody was embarrassed to wear spandex in public, I was a tropical fish enthusiast. No, scratch that: I was a tropical fish junkie. Let me loose in a well-stocked fish store, and you might as well tattoo “JUST ONE FIX” to my forehead. In that regard, letting me loose in northeast Wisconsin in 1985 was like giving William S. Burroughs a key to a smack factory and telling him “We’ll be back in a month.” In the days before the Interwebs, there wasn’t much to do in places like Menasha and Little Chute (then not known as the future home of Ellen Ripley) during the winter other than watch the snow fall and pickling one’s liver, so the fish shops were valuable bastions of sanity for those who couldn’t drink, couldn’t smoke, and didn’t want to follow in the traditions of fellow residents Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer. Me, I practically lived in several fish shops, where I learned the vagaries of community tanks, the basics of saltwater arrangements, and the allure of exotics such as discus and red-bellied piranha.
One of the most important lessons I learned during that time was “Don’t trust the fish books, because the fish don’t read.” This is something else that needed to be tattooed on my forehead, because whoo boy does this apply to carnivorous plants. Every once in a while, you come across the right conditions for what are generally considered difficult plants, and they’re nearly impossible to kill. In my case, the book-breaker was the king sundew, Drosera regia.
Two years ago, on a trip to Boston, I purchased a king sundew, cultivar “Big Easy,” from Black Jungle Terrarium Supply. Having heard about D. regia‘s notorious reputation for being difficult, I figured, with the hopeful arrogance of most horticulture students, that I wouldn’t botch it up too badly. The sundew went into the greenhouse in July, right after I got back, and it promptly went berserk catching mosquitoes and fungus gnats. It appeared to die off in September, but I also knew how many sundews play dead for a while before growing back from the roots, so I didn’t dump the pot right away. Over the winter, it sat outside, where it froze solid in our big week-long cold snap in February 2011, and it suddenly came back in March.
This time, it went into a tall ceramic pot with no drainage, and it seemed to do even better. The plant grew nearly a meter tall, and regularly seemed to reach out to grab my hair as well as its usual prey. The 2011 heatwave started, and it kept going. July and August blasted the earth, and it kept going. Finally, when things really dried out in September and October, it appeared to die back again, but I kept watering it from time to time to make sure. Finally, the pot broke during a rearrangement of plants in winter housing, and I took a closer look at the freshly sprouting mass. You can imagine my surprise at seeing eight new plants emerging from separate rhizomes, each the size of a coat button, acting as if the weather of the last year was standard operating procedure.
There’s not much more to tell at the moment. Right now, seven of the eight rhizomes are in a propagation tank, and I’ll probably bring out a couple to this weekend’s plant show. The eighth is going to go back into the greenhouse, where I’m going to figure out whether this is a new tolerant cultivar or I just ended up hitting the right conditions for it. Reports will follow.