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Monday, September 21, 2009

Will San Francisco State Cultivate Vegan Venus Flytraps?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 6:30 AM

To answer the question posed in this article's headline: No. No it will not. In fact, if San Francisco State's greenhouse maven is to be believed, his carnivorous plants will be as far from vegan as possible, feasting on live prey by asphyxiating them in their lethal vise grip before digesting them alive in a slow and agonizing ordeal.

In fact, SFSU greenhouse manager Martin Grantham has invited members of the general public to bring their own live insects to sacrifice to his hungry carnivorous plants during a Wednesday feeding he's modeling after the since-abrogated San Francisco Zoo tradition of publicly offering the lions huge hunks of bloody meat while gawkers leered at the masticating cats.

"Actually this is worse, if you relate to the fly -- they didn't give [the lions] live animals," notes Grantham. "The flies get trapped, struggle and die slow." Is he anticipating any indignant protest from earnest San Francisco liberals? Not really -- "Gee, there are a lot of flies around."

That being said, Grantham said it's likely a Venus Flytrap fed small hunks of tofu would fare quite well, as it's protein the plant really desires. But as long as he can capture some earwigs and flies from his home, he figures -- why waste good tofu?

Actually, a couple of Grantham's students may prevail upon him to act with caesar-like benevolence toward the doomed flies. Instead of placing the condemned insects in the refrigerator for a spell so they'll be too groggy to buzz off when being handled, several undergraduates have argued that the flies deserve a fighting chance, and should be simply emptied out of a bottle near the carnivorous plants. Those interested in whether Grantham listens to the angel or devil sitting on his shoulder will have to attend the Wednesday feeding, which runs from noon to 5 p.m.

Finally, for those attempting to follow the city's looming composting laws and finding their kitchens confronted with flies, Grantham notes that a Venus Flytrap will do you little good. The "vinegar flies" that feast on rotting vegetables are too small to activate the traps' closing mechanisms.

On the other hand, sundew plants might be just what the situation calls for -- and Grantham has several that he employs strategically around the greenhouse. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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