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Carnivorous Plants of New ZealandBOOK REVIEWS

Carnivorous Plants
of New Zealand

Bruce Salmon
Ecosphere Publications

BRUCE SALMON is a carnivorous plant connoisseur and his enthusiasm for these weird and wonderful plants shines through in this authoritative new book.

Bruce was just a teenager when he first started collecting carnivorous plants - he's now the President of the New Zealand Carnivorous Plant Society. He is, you could say, consumed by these insect chomping, sticky-trap producing members of the plant world.

Carnivorous Plants of New ZealandThe first thing that surprises about this book is how attractive our native carnivorous plants are, even if they are bizarre. They are, as Bruce says, "both beautiful and deadly - masters of their boggy realm".

There are two main families: the droseras, or sundews, with their sticky natural flytraps, and the Utricularia, or bladderworts. Bladderworts are the most common plant carnivores, with 215 species worldwide, including five native New Zealand species. The drosera family includes 160 species, making it the second largest group in the world, although only seven species occur naturally here.

This book covers a dozen different species in all. Some, like Drosera binata, are quite spectacular. This sundew has pretty single flowers carried above a clump of sticky red, tentacle-like stems. It's easy to imagine how excited the author must have been to see them growing en masse in the wild, in sphagnum moss at Lake Ruapani in the Urewera National Park.

Drosera pygmaea caught my interest too (I'm sure anyone with an interest in fascinating plants will find, as I did, that as soon as you see the photos in this book you'll want to start your own carnivorous plant collection).

Drosera pygmaea has red flowers - from a distance these little plants look like a cluster of fallen pohutukawa blooms. Close up, they look extra-terrestrial as well as extraordinary.

Bladderworts, despite their less than appealing common name, have the daintiest little flowers, similar to a single snapdragon. They use a unique vacuum trapping mechanism to ensnare their prey, luring them in through a one-way trap door. Vicious, but effective!

This is an intriguing book about intriguing plants. There are numerous close-up photographs and black and white botanic drawings make it possible to see exactly how these plants go about their deadly business.

If you're already interested in carnivorous plants, this book is a must-have. And if you're not, by the time you've finished reading Carnivorous Plants of New Zealand, you will be.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 95, March 28-April 10, 2002, Page 28

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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