Hungry horticulture: Carnivorous plant expert offers science lesson with bite

Hungry horticulture: Carnivorous plant expert offers science lesson with bite
Feed me, Seymour: Carnivorous plant expert Jonathan Kui says he has never lost a finger to his venus flytrap — just one kind of flesh-eating foliage he will bring to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for “Icky Fest 2014.”
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is turning into a “Little Shop of Horrors.”

As part of its “Icky Fest 2014” weekend — a celebration of all things creepy, crawly, and covered in slime on Jan. 11–12 — the Crown Heights museum is hosting a talk by an expert on meat-eating plants, who will bring his carnivorous collection with him.

“My interest in carnivorous plants was always about role reversals,” said Jonathan Kui, and Sheepshead Bay resident and the owner of plant nursery Midtown Carnivores. “Usually, you have animals eating plants, but the plants I’m bringing have found interesting ways of catching and digesting animals.”

Most people have heard of the venus flytrap — a flower-producing plant that comes equipped with a few vicious bulbs for ensnaring hapless bugs and then digesting them in a spicy enzyme bath. But Kui believes that the venus flytrap has received enough press, and he is more interested in teaching kids about lesser-known bug-eating vegetation.

“I always wanted to give back to the community, by teaching children that there’s more to carnivorous plants than the venus flytrap,” he said.

Kui’s favorite plant, for instance, is the very rare, very odd-looking Australian pitcher plant, which snares unfortunate bugs in its pit-shaped leaves, before devouring them at its leisure.

“It’s really gnarly looking,” he said.

Every kid in attendance at Kui’s two Icky Fest seminars will receive a pot and the seeds of a South African Cape sundew plant to take home, so they can grow little carnivores of their own.

“It’s a fantastic beginner plant and I can’t recommend it enough,” he said.

And parents, don’t worry about the safety of your little ones around the plants. Kui said he has not lost anyone yet.

“No, I haven’t lost any fingers,” he said. “These plants can’t trap or hurt people, even very small people.”

“Carnivorous Plants” at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum [145 Brooklyn Ave. between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place in Crown Heights, (718) 735–4400, www.brooklynkids.org]. Jan 11–12 at 1:30 pm. Free with $9 museum admission.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Don’t feed the plants: Every kid who attends Jonathan Kui’s carnivorous plant workshop at the Brooklyn Children Museum’s “Icky Fest 2014” weekend gets the seeds of a South African Cape sundew plant to take home.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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