Gordon Wells (
Mon, 30 Oct 1995 13:44:58 UTC+0100

Hi everyone,

Now that the discussion has finally calmed down to more
pastoral topics, I guess it's a good time to toss in my
introductory message.

I'm Gordon Wells, I'm originally from Colorado but have
been living in Barcelona, Spain for the last 9 years.
I work as an engineer in a state research institute developing
artificial vision algorithms for robots using neural networks.
And among my hobbies is a small stand of carnivorous plants
in my living room. I also grow several varieties of Mexican
chili peppers and herbs in pots on my balcony, as I love
Mexican food but Mexican chili varieties like Poblano, Guajillo,
Mulato and Pasilla are not available in Spain.

Like many others, I imagine, I first became interested in
CP when the local supermarket in Colorado started selling
Venus Flytraps in the plant section. I was about 12 years
old then, and lacking in resources, my only reference being
that little paperback by Randall Schwartz (sold in the book
section of the same supermarket). Needless to say, my
flytraps perished one after another, despite their carefully
built terrarium as in Mr. Schwartz's book. Two years of
frustration finally landed that terrarium in our garage sale.

Now, 19 years later, VFT's and S. purpurea have finally begun
appearing in a flower stand on the Rambla in Barcelona, believe
it or not. In a couple of garden centers I've recently been
able to find a few S. rubra, P. Weser, U. livida, and U. alpina.
All of these are apparently imported from someplace in Holland.
One of the growers is called "Carnivora Plants". Anyone heard
of this one ? Not surprisingly, there's not an intense demand
for these plants here, and after buying one of each, I've
watched all the remaining ones in the store wither and die
unsold. I would have loved to buy them all up to spare them
this fate, but when they're selling them for $25.00 apiece,
one's about all you can afford. The only plants that appear to
really sell well here are the VFTs on the Rambla, which they
have set out on a table where many passers-by gather around to
oo-and-ah at them. Of course, everyone pokes their finger into
the traps and closes every single one of them, which probably
leaves the poor fellow who eventually buys it pretty confused
and disappointed when all the leaves simultaneously turn black
a few days later from so much fiddling.

Anyway, now that I've begun seeing CP appear here, my interest
has been revived. And I must say that discovering the web
resources was an amazing experience - the sensation was of
going from near-total ignorance to instant contact with all
other CP growers and information in a matter of seconds.
Now I have a terrarium in my living room with all the species
mentioned above, plus S. excellens, D. capensis,
D. aliciae, P. moranensis and N. Wrigleyana (yes, sort-of an
overly artificial hybrid, I'll admit). These I bought from
Marcel Lecoufle in Paris. I also have D. whittakeri, H. minor
and C. follicularis on the way from Sarracenia Nurseries in
England. I'll admit, my plants are rather common and far from
being rare species, but you've got to start somewhere.

I would love to break my dependence on nurseries and
start trading plants with someone nearby, but have yet to find
other growers in Spain. I've perused most of the CP archive
messages from 1993, 94 and 95 and haven't found a single one.
Any Spanish growers out there ? Of course, I'm also interested
in trading with other European growers as well. (Any farther
away and the mailing times start becoming too long.)

As for my terrarium, it's a 54-liter aquarium which I've covered
with 3 slats of glass, leaving 2-cm slots between them for
ventilation (something I learned the hard way when my plants got
scorched in this summer's heat wave). I've got 5 cm of
(supposedly) sphagnum peat in the bottom, over 1.5 cm of silica
sand, but for lack of anything else for sale, I bought
fertilized peat, which I imagine is what's causing my flytrap to
shrink (All the others seem to love it). Plain sphagnum moss is
simply not available here, so I'll also have to import it.

The only thing really worth mentioning about my terrarium is the
automatic watering system I rigged up for it. I bought a couple
of water-level relay circuits at the local electronic supply
store and hooked them up in series. The sensor of one is in the
terrarium, and that of the other is in the jug of distilled
water under the table, where the water pump is submerged (a
simple aquarium pump). So, when the water level falls below the
2cm level in the terrarium, the pump turns on and waters the
terrarium through a plastic tube from the water jug. The other
sensor turns the pump off if the water level in the water jug
falls below the top of the pump, which protects it from burnout.
This system has worked pretty well, and keeps me from having to
manually water 3 or 4 times a day. It's also great for
vacations. I've had to make one important modification to the
sensors, which I had to change from copper to stainless steel,
since the acidic water in the terrarium completely dissolved
the copper probe through electrolysis in 2 weeks. One other
important thing to keep in mind is that the end of the water
tube must be placed right next to the sensor in the terrarium,
or else it will pump *way* too much water in before it finally
seeps over through the soil to where the sensor is. A one-way
retention valve is also needed in the tube to prevent the pump
from going into an endless on/off cycle due to the volume of
water in the tube when the level falls below the minimum in the
water jug. (i.e. The pump is on, the level falls in the jug and
turns the pump off. The water in the tube then drains back down
into the jug, the level goes back up and the pump turns back on,
etc.). If anyone else has a watering system like this, I would
enjoy hearing about it.

The other piece of electronic gadgetry in my terrarium is an
electronic thermometer/hygrometer which I bought at Radio Shack
in the U.S. If you're interested in a small, precise hygrometer
for your terrarium, this is the best I've found. It measures
about 6cm x 5cm x 1cm, has a stick-on mounting bracket, and
costs only about $24.00. It also has a min/max memory for both
the thermometer and the hygrometer. Most importantly is that its
precision is +/- 5% humidity, which is about as good as you can
get. The precision for most mechanical hygrometers ranges
anywhere from 10 to 40% - if you've ever looked at them on the
wall in the store, every one of them usually has a completely
different reading. The precision for the thermometer is
+/- 0.5 degrees, I believe.

One of my next goals is to take a few field trips to see some
of the CP that grow wild near here. I only recently learned
that Spain had native CP, and I understand that there are even a
few growing near Barcelona, though I don't know exactly where.
I hope to start a collection of all the native Spanish CP, but
*not* from field collection, mind you - I'm sure practically all
of them can be obtained elsewhere from previously collected
plants and seeds.

Another immediate goal, as you may have heard, is to compile
a list of CP book errata to include in the CP web resources.
I'll have to say it's going a bit slow though, since there has
not been one single post of book errata on the list since I
announced I would be compiling them. Hmmm... I trust everyone
is hard at work looking through the books and preparing their

This has been rather longwinded, but I hope it might be
interesting to someone. I would especially enjoy hearing from
other growers in Spain, or anyone who has seen CP growing in the
wild here. (And get those book errata coming!)

Best regards,

Gordon Wells
Instituto de Cibernetica
Diagonal 647, planta 2
Barcelona 08028