By C. RITCHIE BELL
Professor, Department of Botany, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Director, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill
Since their discovery by botanists over two hundred years ago, the world's carnivorous plants have been the center, from time to time, of much scientific study and public interest. They have also been the center of a number of misconceptions and, in the past few years, of considerable commercial exploitation.
Carnivorous plants are both colorful and biologically interesting, but they are not house plants. Their specific environmental requirements often involve very high humidity, high light intensities, quite acid soil, pure water, and seasonal temperature changes; such requirements are not met by a pot of generalized dirt, treated tap water, and the usual temperature and humidity ranges of the average home, office, or apartment! It is likely that not one "cultivated" carnivorous plant in a thousand lives a full year and probably less than one in ten thousand survives for two years in the hands of most amateur "collectors" or those who, unfortunately, are misled by the commercial advertisements for these unique plants and attempt to grow them, merely as a novelty, on the kitchen window sill.
Given the above background, this book becomes something of a landmark in carnivorous plant publication. Not only does it bring together in a very readable fashion the many interesting botanical facts concerning the form, function, and ecology of our carnivorous plants, but the author makes a strong, and very timely, case for the preservation of these unique members of the plant world from rapid extinction through a combination of realistic protection from continued collecting, conservation of their specialized habitats, responsible horticultural research, and the general cultivation of only those plants actually grown from seeds or, where possible, cuttings.
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