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Christmas Trees vs Venus Fly Traps!

Christmas Trees vs Venus Fly Traps!

By now I expect we’ve all seen this year’s John Lewis Christmas Ad – it’s now as much a part of Christmas as turkey and mince pies!  The young boy in the ad finds an old box labelled ‘Grow your own perfect Christmas tree’ and is intrigued…….  He sows the seed and waits patiently…. and a seedling appears!  So far so good, children are always excited to see their seeds germinating.  However, his precious plant is not a Christmas Tree at all, it’s a Venus Fly Trap.  He’s a bit disappointed until the fly trap in question grows into a monster with a personality all of its own.

 Venus Fly traps are intriguing plants, even if they don’t actually grow into present crunching monsters. We’ve all seen the traps snapping shut on some unfortunate victim which drops down into a soup of enzymes where it is digested!  Venus Fly Traps are natives of soggy bog environments in North America.  There are many varieties of carnivorous plants native to the wet peatlands of the UK too.  Like all plants they photosynthesise to make the sugar glucose, but carnivorous plants obtain the minerals they need not from soil but from digesting insects.  Saturated bogs are very low in oxygen, so far fewer decomposer organisms live in them.  Fewer decomposers mean fewer nutrients released into the surroundings, hence plants evolved to eat insects instead!

 Here at GFK we have a fantastic range of growing kits designed by us to encourage children and their families to grow plants from seed.  Venus Fly Traps are intriguing, beautiful plants, so why don’t we have a Venus Fly Trap kit?  Well, one of the things we take into consideration when putting a kit together is the ease of germination of the seed.  They must germinate pretty reliably and quickly – imagine how different the ad would have been if the seed had not germinated at all – one very disappointed little boy who might not try again.  That’s just the opposite of what we want at GFK!  Unfortunately, Venus Fly traps can be slow and erratic  to grow from seed.  Once grown they are very fussy about what sort of soil they want and will only drink rainwater!  So probably not a plant for a beginner.  I’m not saying don’t grow carnivorous plants – they are wonderful, but be aware that they need careful looking after.  I have a gorgeous little sundew plant on the windowsill which takes care of pesky little flies but it’s taken me months to nurse it back to health after my friend watered it with tap water when I was on holiday.

 Now Christmas trees are a different thing entirely.  They germinate readily from seed, often within 7-10 days and look like miniature chimney sweep brushes when they first appear.   They are not in the least bit fussy about soil or water, just give them plenty of both!  Yes, they grow fairly slowly for the first couple of years but after that they will romp away.  You could be decorating them within about 5 years, so they are a great long-term project for children. 

 Just one last observation, the ‘seed’ in the John Lewis advert looked more like a hazelnut to me, and you can grow those from seed too!

Next article Autumn at Gardening for Kids

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