WILTB – April 2017

What’s It Like To Be…. Peter D’Amato

PLEASE TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
My name is Peter D’Amato, and I am the founder/co-owner of California Carnivores, Inc., the largest carnivorous plant nursery in the country. We house the largest collection of insect- and animal-eating plants in the world that’s open to the public, and we ship our plants throughout the country by mail order (www.californiacarnivores.com). I started the nursery in 1989, and we are a very popular tourist attraction in Sonoma County, California, located in the wine country about an hour north of San Francisco. I am the author of the award-winning best-seller The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants, which was first published in 1997, and the updated/ revised version came out in 2013.

CAN YOU SHARE A COOL FACT MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT CARNIVOROUS PLANTS?
Carnivorous plants are not only bizarre and fascinating; they are also very beautiful. There are around 700 species known around the world, with thousands of species and hybrids in cultivation. They usually grow
in wet, mineral-poor soils and have evolved strange trapping methods to catch and eat insects and small animals for nutrients not in the soils where they grow. While the Venus ytrap may be the most famous, there are also many hundreds of pitcher plants that drug and drown prey, sticky sundews and butterworts that catch insects with glue and often-moving tentacles and even some that have suction traps that feed on nearly microscopic creatures. People love to grow them not only because “they don’t just sit there,” but also for their often-gorgeous leaves and owers. Plus, many are very easy to grow.

One thing that usually surprises people who are unfamiliar with carnivorous plants is that while they grow around the world, the United States has more varieties than any place else in the world. The Venus ytrap, American pitcher plants, many sundews, butterworts, bladderworts and the cobra plant all grow in North America, usually in bogs and wet grassy savannahs.

WHAT DOES YOUR JOB INVOLVE?
Our jobs at California Carnivores are a lot of fun and very labor intensive! We propagate our plants through seed, division, leaf and root cuttings, and we also have a tissue culture laboratory run by our employee Mike Wilder, where he multiplies thousands of plants in tissue culture test tubes. It makes us very happy when customers find out how easy most of the plants are to grow.

WHEN/ HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN CARNIVOROUS PLANTS?
My interest began back when I was a kid in the 1960s, growing up on the New Jersey shore by the pine barrens. I ordered Venus flytraps from Famous Monsters magazine, and they promptly died. Then a fellow classmate showed me pitcher plants and sundews in bogs right near where I lived. They looked like they came from outer space! In my school library, I found a National Geographic magazine that had a famous article all about carnivorous plants in the United States, and I was amazed to nd out Venus flytraps grew only in North and South Carolina! I also read books like Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin, who stated he cared more about insect-eating plants than the origin of all the species of life on earth.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU AREN’T WORKING WITH CARNIVOROUS PLANTS?
I love to read and watch movies (especially ones that deal with esh- eating plants like Little Shop of Horrors, The Day of the Triads and Invasion of the Body Snatchers). In fact, much of my free time the past few years has been writing a science-fiction/horror novel. I’m 80 percent through the book, which is about 400 pages so far. It’s a delightful escape for me on my days off!

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