They look exotic maybe even alien but many are actually all-American natives to New Jersey, California and other states. These fascinating plants are full of surprises including what they ate for dinner.
"North America had more varieties of carnivorous plants than anywhere in the world," said expert Peter D'Amato, author of "The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants." "But they've become very endangered. Less than 5 percent of our original carnivorous plant habitat wetland is still available. Most of it has been lost to development."
D'Amato will be the featured guest today at the 43rd annual Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society Show and Sale at the Shepard Garden and Art Center in McKinley Park. Although the show lasts all weekend, D'Amato will be on hand only today to discuss his work and sign copies of his book, which will be available for sale.
Newly revised, "The Savage Garden" (Ten Speed Press, 384 pages, $25.99) is recognized as the most comprehensive guide to this unusual plant world.
"So much has changed since the book was first released (in 1998)," D'Amato said. "In the last 20 years, plant collectors have discovered more species (of carnivorous plants) than the previous 200 years. More and more varieties are being developed (by plant breeders).
"There are so many new hybrids; they're creating bigger and bigger flytraps," D'Amato said with a chuckle. "Pretty soon, we'll have mouse traps."
Also for sale at the event will be hundreds of unusual plants including some from D'Amato's nursery, California Carnivores. At his Sebastopol nursery, D'Amato has the world's largest collection of carnivorous plants with more than 1,000 varieties. (Visitors are welcome, he added, but "it's BYOB bring your own bugs.")
"First of all, it's a big honor for us," said Eric Trygg, the society's president. "Peter doesn't do (appearances) that often. But he likes our club because we're a real club. He's coming to have a good time.
"We have a really special bond with him," Trygg added. "I don't think there's anyone else with his knowledge. He's No. 1 in the world as far as we're concerned."
With massive exhibits of colorful bromeliads as well as intriguing carnivorous plants, the Sacramento show is one of the largest club events on the Shepard Center calendar, Trygg noted. It's very family-friendly; kids love to see the bug-eating Venus flytraps as well as fascinating cobra lilies, pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts and more.
D'Amato fell in love with carnivorous plants as a kid growing up in New Jersey.
"I really loved monster movies like Roger Corman's 'Little Shop of Horrors,' " he recalled. Of course, that movie featured a memorable flesh-eating plant, Audrey.
Inspired by an ad in Famous Monsters movie magazine, D'Amato sent away for a Venus flytrap. The ad quoted scientist Charles Darwin a pioneer in carnivorous plant research along with the origin of other species as he touted the wonders of these botanical oddities.
D'Amato later discovered that Venus flytraps actually grew in a bog near his New Jersey neighborhood.
"I thought Venus flytraps were from Madagascar," he said. "Here they were growing on the Jersey shore. It opened up a whole new world to me."
D'Amato, now 59, has a direct descendent of a purple pitcher plant he got as a teenager.
"I still feel like a kid because I love what I do," he said. "I really lucked out with a fun job."
43RD ANNUAL SACRAMENTO BROMELIAD AND CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETY SHOW AND SALE
Where: Shepard Garden and Arts Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today and Sunday
Details: (530) 273-9161
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.