A Carnivorous Plant Nursery with Over 50,000 Plants

– You’re good at that.
– (laughs) Ah, ah… dah! Ah, no! Welcome to Curious Business. I’m your host,
Alan Shane Lewis. Each episode, I take you
behind the scenes of some of the most unique successful
businesses out there. Today I’m Smithsburg,
serving up some of the juiciest, non-GMO, organic, Keto-friendly flies the state of
Maryland has to offer. So, come along
on this, frankly, disgusting culinary journey
as I hang out with some bug-eating
carnivorous plants. ♪ – Hi, Michael?
– Yes. – How’s it going? Alan.
– Hi, Alan. Nice to meet you. Welcome to
Carnivorous Plant Nursery. Oh, thank you.
This is, I have to say, the most beautiful place. Like,
a really nice property, yeah. – Oh, thank you.
– Yeah. (laughs) We enjoy
it very much. Can you tell me a little
bit about your business? Well, sure. Carnivorous plants are the
main body of what we do. We offer over 600 different
carnivorous plants and we ship plants worldwide. All this got started because of
my teaching high school biology. If you ever tried to
teach kids a botany unit, they’ll start by
rolling their eyes and then complaining about
how boring plants are. And then you bring
up carnivorous… I bring out some of these
and they get really excited, start asking questions. And so, you need more than
one or two plants in order to do something really
significant with students, so I started doing talks
with different teachers about how to use the
plants to engage kids, and a real
common question was, “Where can I get
some of those plants?” So, I started the nursery
as a way to help share the plant material and
knowledge about them. And that turned into a
wonderful enterprise. ♪ So, this is an American
pitcher plant, Sarracenia. This is the red pitcher plant.
This is the flower here. The pitcher plants,
in particular, catch more bugs than any
other carnivorous plant. The way they do that is,
there’s nectar glands all along the hood here that
attracts the bugs to the plant. And, it’s sweeter the
deeper you go into the tube. Inside the tube, there are
downward pointing hairs, so it’s a one-way
trip for the bugs. These are Venus
flytraps here. So, if you look inside the trap,
you can see that they’re– look like little whiskers,
little trigger hairs. If a bug goes in there
and touches those hairs two times, it causes the
plant to close up. (laughs) When I first
started the nursery, I thought my average customer
would be a 12-year-old boy. – Wrong.
– No. I’m surprised how diverse
the interest is in the plants. My initial start was to use
them as educational materials, but then I found that there
are so many hobbyists wanting them
for different purposes. We’ve got farmers who like to
use them to control horse flies. We’ve got folks who like
to have mosquito control on their deck. We’ve got folks who garden
that like to have them in and among the garden to help
get rid of or reduce bugs, which you have to be careful
how you grow them because they do have
special requirements. So, all these plants,
they’re eating bugs, but is that their
main source of food? Are they using
photosynthesis at all, or…? Well, they are
photosynthetic; they are green plants. The food, the prey
that they capture, it acts more like a fertilizer
and helps stimulate growth. Now, they only need
one or two bugs a year. You don’t have to
feed ’em every day. You can, and
that’s fun to do, and I’ve never seen a
plant get overfed ’cause it’s like a fertilizer. The more you help it,
the more it grows along. – That’s a nice size bug.
– Oh, wow. He’s caught on
the king sundew. It’ll take a while,
about 8 hours, and that plant will
secrete digestive juices and dissolve the bug
right in the spot. This is the 4th stage of
grief, acceptance. Oh, no, I think
I can get out. No! So, we’ve got
some hungry plants. – You want to feed some?
– Yeah. (buzzing) We’ve got a Japanese beetle
here and this looks like a very hungry plant so,
let’s see how good you are at getting that
right into the trap. Okay… okay. ♪ Agh! Oh! Success! Amazing. (claps & laughs)
That’s what you get! So, what’s gonna happen
to this bug right now? This one’s not
totally closed yet, so as that bug
wiggles and moves about, that’ll stimulate
the trap to seal shut, and then it’ll secrete
digestive enzymes that will dissolve the bug.
It’ll take about 3 days. And then the
trap will open up, the carcass falls out, and
it’s ready to eat again. Okay. You have this amazing
business and it’s inches away from your house, so you must
be like living the dream, huh? Well, it’s been an
exciting journey. When I first
started the business, about 15 years ago or so,
we were doing 6, 7 orders a week
and it was just me. And, now that we’ve scaled up
and we’re doing hundreds of orders a week, and it’s
to the point now where I’ve got two
full-time employees. We’re giving them
health benefits, they’ve got vacation days
and sick leave. It’s just been a
wonderful experience to see the business grow. To be able to do it
here in our own backyard, it’s a great thing to do. Oh, look!
This guy, he fought free. This one fought for it.
This one really wants to live. ♪ Thanks for watching
Curious Business. I’m Alan Shane Lewis. Did you know that there are
people who are canning and selling some of
Canada’s fresh air? Well, it’s true. I hung out with them
just to see how that works, and if you want to
see how that works too, make sure to click the
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get notified every time I discover new stuff. See you guys on
the next one. ♪

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