Wednesday, September 15, 2010

But Whatever They Offer You Don't Feed the Plants

I don't keep plants.  I like them, I like taking pictures of them, and I even like going to see them in the wild.  But I don't keep them.  Not anymore. 

A couple of years ago my mother gave me a venus flytrap.  It was so cute with its tiny little flytraps in a tiny little pot - I loved it instantly.  It was bright green, had three little traps, and came with a handy booklet that described all the best ways to care for your new adorably blood-thirsty demon plant.  

I found it a nice sunny spot on the windowsill, and bought a gallon of distilled water, just like the little booklet said I should.  I named it Audrey III, because in some ways, I am very, very original.

After about a week of carefully turning and misting Audrey, I decided it was time to try the Big Feed.  The traps were too small to catch any of the flies that might have made their way into the house, so I did what I thought would have been the next best thing.  I went to the fridge, and took the tiniest piece of ground beef I could fit between my fingers, like the booklet said, and dropped it into the tallest trap.

CHOMP!

The trap closed around the ground beef hungrily, and I was delighted.  My very own meat-eating plant, eating the meat I had brought it!  I could not have been more proud.  I could even see the little bump where the leaves had trapped the meat, squeezing out the nutrients.  I put Audrey back on the windowsill and gave her a quick spritz - I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.

The trap hadn't opened by the next day, but I wasn't worried.  Maybe it would just take longer than I expected to digest that delicious ground beef.  Maybe it was savoring.

The day after, the trap still hadn't opened, but I didn't notice, because one of of the smaller traps had caught itself a fruit fly!  My baby Audrey, all grown up!

On the third day, not only had the trap not opened, but the plant itself... sagged.  The traps drooped heavily, and its green was far from bright.  Concerned, I looked for a sunnier patch of windowsill, and gave her an extra spritz for good luck.

The fourth day, Audrey had taken a dark turn.  The leaves had begun to shrivel, the stalks limp and rubbery, and the plant's green coloring had taken on some dangerously brown undertones.  Time to face facts; something was wrong with Audrey.

Trying to contain my panic, I consulted the booklet, but it didn't have a section helpfully titled "What to Do When Your Plant is Dying."  I went to the internet, but it was surprisingly unhelpful - nothing about saving a sick plant, just a lot of know-it-alls griping about how difficult it was to grow a domestic venus flytrap.  Well, I'd show them.  I'd show them all!  I was going to save Audrey III!

I gingerly started feeling my way across the plant, looking for anything, some sign of what was wrong, all the while fearing that I had done something awful to Audrey.  She was clean, no indication that anything was hurting her.  Until I lifted the still closed trap of the tallest stalk.

There, on the underside of the trap, was the answer.  It shone like a beacon.  And ugly, crusty, dried up spot, a perfect circle of plant death, in the same place where the trap had closed around the ground beef.  I hadn't just hurt my plant, I'd choked the life right out of her.

It took seconds to toss Audrey in the garbage, but her memory lingers.  I've never owned another potted plant, out of respect.  

Also because I'm lazy.  

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