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Visiting meat-eating plants

Carnivorous plants fascinate me. Not only because of the creepfactor, but because they are wildly beautiful. The colors! The shapes!

Other than admiring photos online, my only exposure to meat-eating plants was an unfortunate incident in elementary school where I was the caretaker of the classroom venus flytrap for a weekend. I tried my best, but by Monday morning it was drooping, and thankful to get back to a happier setting. Let’s just say that I’m not known for my green thumb.

So when I learned about California Carnivores, a whole nursery dedicated to these gorgeous meat-eaters (as seen here on Atlas Obscura) I was eager to visit. This nursery contains the largest collection of carnivorous plants in the world.

Beware, bugs and small animals!

Lo and behold…in June 2019, the North Coast Nature Journal Club announced they were hosting a visit!

So on my nature-journaling pal MJ and I packed up a lunch and headed north to Sebastapol to sketch the marvelousness.

[note: post updated to include a 2nd visit in February 2020.]

Pitcher Plan Bonanza – June 2019

On June 9th, we joined the North Coast Nature Journal Club for the Pitcher Plant Bonanza….the peak season of the pitcher plants; it’s the time of year to the amazing species of pitcher plants at their best! With the energetic and enthusiastic Marley Peifer as our guide, we focused on drawing and learning about carnivorous plants in general and Sarracenia pitcher plants in particular. We also practiced composition strategies and tips for nature journaling in information -dense environments.

[Raw capture, observation notes and reference color done on site. Final color and notes completed at home in the studio.]

A summary of the day…where we were and who was there. The big bitey-plant is a huge metal sculpture in the parking lot.
Getting warmed up and learning from Marley.
Visually exploring the visual forms.
Later in the day I explored the Nepenthes. The bug-killing Nepenthes.
So many colors and shapes! A round-up of multiple species.

The dormancy – February 2020

So…you can’t just go once. There is too much to see (and smell!) and the plants change with the seasons. The following winter, I had another opportunity to visit and draw.

This time I really wanted to observe…to dig into the looking and smelling and sensing and observing. So rather than work toward refined visuals, I used the visit to experiment and explore.

Rapid explorations, each one minute. And 12 of them. My math was never good.
Those vines are insane! I had to crawl around the whole plant to count the leaves and see which pitchers were on which leaf. Trying to organize it all was a fun challenge.
Experimenting with a grid of different observations. I’m really interested in observations that go beyond seeing with my eyes. So I’m creating a language for seeing sounds, smells and touch.

This place is so amazing. If you have a chance to visit, do it!


I learned that every part of a pitcher plant has a purpose. I learned that when overwhelmed with a lot to draw, just PICK SOMETHING and start. I learned that 3 hours goes by so quickly when engrossed in amazing plants!

I was surprised by how much attention it took to explore a plant beyond seeing it. Getting close, sniffing, trying to “touch” without actually touching (the plants are fragile and touching is not a good idea.) The more I look the more I see.

Next time I’d like to be more rigorous in my observations. Pick one species and 3-5 specimens and do deep dives to prompt questions. Also, to continue to explore nature journaling beyond what the eye can see.

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