New Calyx exhibit borders on creepy
In addition to being weird and wonderful, carnivorous plants play a crucial role in our ecosystem. That’s the important message John Larsen, senior horticulturalist at The Calyx in Sydney’s Royal Botanical Garden, wants to deliver to visitors to the new Plants with Bite exhibit. “I want to deliver an environmental message: that carnivorous plants are great indicator plants and we need them in the environment,” says Larsen. “Many of these carnivorous plants are only located in small niche eco systems. They are at a real risk of disappearing because this habitat is shrinking,” he says.
Creepy and compelling
Forget whimsical floral gardens. The new exhibit is as creepy as it is compelling. Larsen says he’s not just drawn to the plants simply because of the fact they devour insects. “I just love the look of carnivorous plants. They are just cool. It’s a niche mechanism to eat insects because there are no nutrients around and the fact they survive in harsh environments with very little nutrients means they are highly adaptive. The loss of their habitat means they are also under threat, which could threaten entire eco systems,” says Larsen.
Miracle of evolution
To survive in the hospitable environments carnivorous plants lure trap kill and digest insects. And according to Jimmy Turner, the garden’s director of horticulture and curator of the exhibit, the exhibit celebrates carnivorous plants as a miracle of evolution. “Plants with Bite looks at the weird and wonderful aspects of flora. Visitors can expect to get up close and learn about these unique plants and see the different types of traps they use to kill prey,” says Larsen.
The new exhibit will combine botany with hands-on activities, an augmented reality app, a Snapchat filter, range of workshops and the display itself. The exhibit includes some 25,000 plants such as the famed Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) as well as flesh-eating Australian flora such as the pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis).
Feed the flytraps
Children visiting the devious plant display during the school holidays will be able to feed the Venus Flytraps during the Dinnertime Doom demonstrations and follow a Garden Monsters trail, timed to coincide with Halloween. There will also be a special movie night screening of cult film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes at The Calyx, which contains the largest interior vertical floral wall in the Southern Hemisphere. Visit rbgsydney.nsw.gov.au/TheCalyx