I have always had a special place in my heart for carnivorous plants. I love an underdog and it’s a fitting turn of events for
the once defenseless bottom of the food chain to bite back. I first learned about
them on Mr. Wizard’s World, an old 80’s Nickelodeon show
that aired on weekday mornings after The Mysterious Cities of Gold--the
finest hour of kid’s television programming ever. I tried to nail down a video clip
of that Mr. Wizard’s World segment, but Nickelodeon is stingy with their classic
shows. You can buy the DVD of Mr. Wizard’s World Season One, if you’re interested.
I actually had heard of Venus Fly Traps before I saw that episode of Mr. Wizard’s
World. As a kid, I subscribed to Boys’ Life magazine. No, I wasn’t a boy scout.
I only went to one Cub Scout meeting and thought the whole thing was retarded. For
what seemed an eternity, a group of us sat in a small, dim room with our parents and
made paper mache armor for no apparent reason. Oh, rad. Where the hell was all the cool stuff like learning
survival skills, building fires, tracking beasts, and pitching tents?
I dropped all notions of being a boy scout after that initial meeting, but I feigned
interest in Boy's Life magazine and begged for a subscription. The main reason was
to browse the cool ads in the Gifts and Gimmicks section. This shit was even better
than the precious and rare Toys R Us ads! Every month I would stare for hours at the buffet of
wicked cool treasures like ninja supplies, practical jokes, X-Ray glasses, Charles
Atlas workouts, and plans for Air Cars made from vacuum cleaner parts. I pleaded
my case for that Air Car many times, but my parents wisely crushed those dreams
at every attempt.
Thanks to the miracle of Google Books, you can check out the Gift and Gimmicks section
from the February 1987 issue. This was the actual issue that I swiped
from a doctor’s office and got me hooked.
The Johnson Smith Company ad in Boy's Life that introduced me to Venus Fly Traps. Sort of.
The Johnson Smith Company hawked a Venus Fly Trap for just 88 cents in their ads.
In 1987, I had no idea what a Venus Fly Trap was or even what that weird cartoon
was trying to portray. Were those flying hearts? Was a Venus Fly Trap like a cuckoo clock or something?
I was completely baffled by the picture and asked my buddy, Tremaine, what it was. Tremaine was one grade ahead
of me, so I figured he knew everything. He was happy to let me believe that. And,
of course, he knew exactly what a Venus Fly Trap was. In fact, he had actually used one
before. A Venus Fly Trap was a practical joke that you hid in your pants. When a
girl reached down your pants, it snapped their probing fingers like a mouse trap.
Made sense to me. He also told me that condoms were something you pissed into, so
you didn’t have to go to the bathroom. That made even more sense.
Putting Together the Carnivorous Creations Plant Kit
The Carnivorous Creations box claims that you can grow “over ten” varieties of carnivorous
plants. That’s vague. Does this mean there are eleven different plants? Twenty?
Five million? I don’t know, but five plants are listed on the box, so I assume that
I’m guaranteed to get a Venus Fly Trap, Pitcher Plant, Sundew Plant, Cobra Plant,
and a Trumpet Plant.
Front of the Carnivorous Creations box
Back of the box
The box art features pictures of the real plants mixed with cartoony versions of
Venus Fly Traps and a peculiar purple people eater, which I’ll call a Pitcher Plant.
The side panels describe the three types of plants you can expect to grow. There’s
the crowd-pleasing, Venus Fly Trap that everyone loves to tease. Don’t trigger their
jaws too much; they can only close about seven times before they die off.
The gritty details about the illustrious Venus Fly Trap
The plant I’m most excited about is the Sundew. This bug-eater looks like it came
straight from an anime cartoon with its red-tipped, sticky tentacles that wrap around
its unfortunate victim and slowly digest it over the course of days. Gruesome.
The star of the show: The Sundew Plant
The third type of plant included with the kit is the Pitcher Plant, which simply
trap a bug in a small pool of water at the bottom of the pitcher. Usually the walls
are slippery or have downward facing hairs that prevent any escape. As the bug
struggles, nasty enzymes are released into the water that digest the doomed creature.
Mr. Box Writer adds a little flair to his description of Pitcher Plants
Mr. Box Writer adds some hyperbole to the drama by claiming that the trapdoor of
the pitcher slams shut when a bug enters. Like it’s some kind of giant Venus Fly
Trap. Lies and Subterfuge! Tricksy Mr. Box Writer! Pitcher Plants are basically
just slippery plant-stomachs. The trapdoors open once and forever when the pitcher
reaches a size that suitable for catching bugs. Besides, Pitcher Plants are cool even without slamming
trapdoors. Some of these suckers are strong enough to devour mice. Take that Venus
The Seed packs, Swamp Rocks, and Bog Buddies.
When I prepared the bio-dome, Mrs. Zenestex read the instructions and navigated
me through the surprisingly intricate process of growing carnivorous plants. I assumed
that you simply wet the dirt, poke the seeds in and cover the pot. A few weeks later,
through the magic of photosynthesis, you have bug-eating plants. Nope.
I first prepared the peat moss by pouring the package into the planter and covering
it with three cups of water, as instructed. I was mystified when the moss and the
water didn’t mix. The water sank straight to the bottom and the dry moss just floated
above it. Uh, now what, Navigator?
Bag of dry peat moss
My wife told me to scrunch the peat moss and the water together like I’m making
a meatloaf. Oh, right. I can barely work a fucking microwave and now I’m getting
instructions that make metaphorical references to preparing homemade meals?
"You realize that I'm guy who screwed up the task of heating
a pre-cooked turkey from Honey Baked Ham this past Thanksgiving, right?"
She rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, just fucking squeeze it like Play-Doh or something.”
Simple enough and how wonderfully messy! Planting things is way more fun than ever
"Scrunching" the peat moss and water together.
The seeds come in two bags. One contains the almighty Venus Fly Trap, which you
can plant immediately. The instructions also claim there’s some barely visible seed
in that bag. I saw maybe a few miniscule specks of dust. Were those actually seeds?
I planted the Venus Fly Traps in their own little section and flicked the dust into
The black seeds will someday be Venus Fly Trap. Those other little specks in there may or may not be seeds. We'll find out. Maybe.
The second bag of seeds requires some sort of voodoo magic spell to get them to
sprout. These seeds come bagged in a dirt mixture. You have to soak the dirt in
the bag, squeeze it into mud, and then put it in the fridge for six weeks. This
is to fake the seeds into thinking they hibernated through a winter. Their natural
growth cycle is to sprout right after a freezing winter.
I filled the bag with water and gave it a little squeeze. The bag squirted mudwater
on my t-shirt. Oh no! My precious little seeds! Did I lose any? The cheap zip-loc
bag had a small tear along the edges, so I transferred the mudwater to a new bag.
We placed the hibernating seeds in a cozy little corner of the fridge and marked
the date in March when I can plant them. There is no way that shit is ever going
Seed Bag #2 wet and ready for deployment in my fridge. I swear they're carnivorous plant seeds, Officer!
Finally, we arranged the bio-dome into a suitable home for insect-devouring plants. The
instructions say to create streams with the Swamp Rocks (blue gravel). I couldn’t
grasp the concept of forming a river with the Swamp Rocks, so I just used the gravel
to create boundaries for the different types of plants monsters. Next came the
crown jewel: placing the Bog Buddies.
The Bog Buddies as promised by Mr. Box Writer.
What sad little creatures.
Mrs. Zenestex remarked at how pathetic the tiny, faded Bog Buddies appeared in the
Gator-Blue graveled bio-dome that would one day house bug-eating plants. So, she
tracked down her Insect Toob that she was saving for Halloween drinks and generously
donated to my cause. I pushed her charity by fighting for the centipede.
The Insect Toob.
Now that's a suitable home for plant monsters!
I later made the mistake of giving the instructions a look-see of my own. I was
appalled at the bit of information that Mrs. Zenestex judiciously failed to mention.
It will take years—years as in fucking plural—for these plants to reach full growth.
If the plants even grow at all. It seems like the Venus Fly Trap, native to the
North American bogland, is the only sure bet in the entire kit.
Old fogies decry our generation’s impatience and demands for instant gratification.
Well, those blue-hairs are absolutely right. I can’t wait YEARS to watch my Precious
feed on filthy, six-legged arthropods. I want it tomorrow. No, I want it NOW! Grow
Dammit! GROW! These seeds are broken!
May not be today, may not be tomorrow, but someday soon there will be death and carnage within this dome
I give it maybe a month before embark on a quest to find fully-grown versions of
each of all these plants. But I’ll continue to update the progress on the Carnivorous