Owen O’Neil is a good friend and fellow CP collector who lives in Goulburn, NSW. He is a great guy with a formidable collection of Sarracenia and grows Venus’ flytraps better than anyone I know. I was very fortunate to be able to spend the day with Owen and walk in wonder amongst his plants. Here is an attempt to do justice to what he has achieved with his collection.
Owen’s success has a lot to do with where his collection is located – at around 800 meters altitude, grown in a clearing in subalpine Eucalypt forest and fed with rainwater harvested from clay-based dams that make the water very soft. The winters here are very cold with heavy frost and often snow. This means his plants are growing very close to how they would in the wild. As with many things, getting the setup right to begin with is over half the battle...
I think Owen has two specialties – one of which is Sarracenia leucophylla (we Australians tend to abbreviate leucophylla to “leuco” or “luke” for singular and “leucos” or “lukes” for plural). At the moment, he is focusing on getting his collection into order and has been grouping like with like. The tray above is his leuco tray, and they look absolutely amazing. Here are some more shots of his lukes:
Red veined clones
More towards the whiter end of the spectrum…
A motley mix of clones…
Some more red veined plants…
Lots of diversity here…
And some leucophylla var. alba stand head and shoulders above the competition.
Speaking of leucophylla var. alba – Owen has a magnificent clone that he is (hopefully) going to name. Here are some closer shots of it…
As you can see, it has very few veins on the hood – note the shot at right showing the contrast with another plant that is relatively more white than, say, his red-veined clones.
An advantage of growing plants outdoors – and in numbers – is that they will catch loads of their own food. In this area, there are plenty of Tachinid flies – large, metallic coloured ones with bodies longer than 20 mm and bigger wingspans. His leucos were brim full of them.
Butterflies and day flying moths seem to be strongly attracted to leucophylla, and there were plenty flying around Owen’s plants. Above is a Meadow Argus, Junonia villida calybe.
One species I was surprised to see partaking on leucophylla nectar was the Wood white, Delias aganippe.
While this particular individual lived to fly another day, I found another in a leucophylla pitcher that had been nommed long ago.
Note the wing scales coating the inside of the pitcher from the butterfly trying to escape. As mentioned above, it was long dead when I found it, or else I would have released it.
Owen’s other specialty has to be the humble Venus’ flytrap. His plants are the relatively common clones – Burbank’s Best and Low Giant are above – but they are HUGE! For scale, those pots are 90 mm diameter. Many of the traps are 40 mm across. I gave Owen some pieces of the giant clone B52 last year and can’t wait to see how big he manages to grow it!
He has just a few VFTs…
Like, 30 meters worth (here is one half-row, there is another further on that I didn’t photograph well)!
Here’s a look at Owen’s collection, row after row of plants, bottom to top:
Bottom row has a number of hybrids, S. alabamensis and S. flava.
Next is the leucophylla row, with some hybrids thrown in for measure. I suspect that the hybrids will be bumped given the number of leucophylla he has!
The next two rows are the sale plants – these are what Owen takes to markets and are divisions off the stock plants in the collection. Provided he has a good number of pots, Owen will put in all sorts of goodies into his sales plants!
Owen’s purpurea, psittacina and minor are at the other end of the second sale row.
We’ll skip the VFT half-row, which I showed above.
Then there are what Owen has dubbed his “shame plants” – they have been left to grow beautifully for years and now need to be divided, with many overgrowing their pots and running their rhizomes through their neighbour’s pots (Owen calls Sarracenia rubra “bed-jumping little rats”!).
And finally, there are some plants Owen grew in bog gardens constructed from trenches lined with black plastic and filled with peat. They have been in these beds for many, many years and look superb!
Mega thanks are due to Owen – I had a really wonderful day – great company and great plants (including some spectacular lukes that accompanied me home – thanks so much again Owen!!!!!).
Its also rather amusing to be enjoying Owen’s Sarracenia here in Australia finish up – to come home to read how fellow CP blogger Nepenthes blogi is watching the Sarracenia collections at Meadowview in the USA break dormancy!
If you are in the Canberra area and want to buy carnivorous plants, Owen is the person I would buy from. He sells his plants every year at the Collector Pumpkin Festival at the town of Collector, NSW, about 2 hours south of Sydney. The festival is a pleasant day out (parking can be manic though) and Owen will have a great selection of Sarracenia, Drosera and flytraps on sale. I will do a post a week out of the festival as a reminder.
Until then, good growing.