Just when you thought Florida had plenty of strange critters, the state also claims the most carnivorous plants in the country, which feed on the peskiest insects.
Permaculturist and freelance nature writer Kenny Coogan, who owns close to 1,000 carnivorous plants and is education director for the International Carnivorous Plant Society will give an informal talk about the unusual world of carnivorous plants at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature think & drink/science program Wednesday evening, March 11. So whether you want to grow a carnivorous plant or are just curious about the odd insect eaters, this event will have you informed.
Coogan is a plant enthusiast and poultry owner who grows hundreds of exotic plants on his one-acre homestead in Central Florida, where he also hosts monthly workshops for those interested in growing plants, breeding chickens and training animals. Coogan creates infographics and provides free resources to educators in his role at the International Carnivorous Plant Society. He also writes for magazines such as Backyard Poultry and Florida Gardening Magazine, and has given three TED-Ed talks on topics spanning from carnivorous plants to why sloths are slow. "There are about 750 to 1,000 different types of carnivorous plants," says Coogan. "I own close to a thousand plants, and house them in my greenhouse and lanai."
Florida's carnivorous plants mainly grow in bogs and swamps and thrive on the state's diverse insect population. "What's most interesting is that carnivorous plants are not related to each other," says Coogan. "They are all just grouped together." Among Coogan's favorites are the Aldrovanda vesiculosa, or 'waterwheel' plant and the Genlisea, or 'corkscrew' plant, which are lesser known than the typical Venus Flytrap.
If you are interested in purchasing a carnivorous plant, Coogan sells his inventory at prices ranging from $10 to $45, depending on rarity and length of time to mature. He is one of the few carnivorous plant vendors at festivals such as the Green Thumb Festival in St. Petersburg, and sells plants while speaking at locations like Sunken Gardens, also in St. Petersburg. Coogan also recently received his import license, which allows him to import rare plants from Sri Lanka and Thailand to sell them to fellow plant enthusiasts in the U.S.
"I am a vegetarian who is passionate about carnivores of the plant and animal type," says Coogan. He shares this passion on his website and with Facebook group Critter Companions, where followers can learn and share agriculture and animal tips. "I educate others about caring for carnivorous plants, because most people are unaware and [the plants] die within weeks," says Coogan. "But if you follow the general rules of care, they are easy to maintain."
The think & drink/science event on carnivorous plants is on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for Discovery Society members and $8 for others. Purchase tickets here, or call (941) 746-4131.