Food For Thought: Curating Carnivorous Plants

Friday, May 24, 2013


Often, the interview before the interview yields the richest material.

Take my Last Chance Foods talk with Dr. Robert Naczi about how NOT to forage. My engineer needed him to talk a bit into the microphone in order to set a level for recording our interview, so I asked Dr. Naczi about his title. He's the Arthur J. Cronquist Curator of North American Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.

Curator? I know what that means in an art context: a keeper or custodian of a collection. But a curator of botany?

"What do you do?" I asked.    

He told me. And it's pretty neat. Dr. Naczi identifies and classifies new plants, especially carnivorous pitcher plants. (Somewhere, in a parallel universe. a pitcher plant is listening to Last Chance Foods: Blue Bottle Fly). He even identified and named the new species Sarracenia rosea. That's it, in the photo to the left. So much prettier than Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors

Usually, a hybrid plant is infertile. Not with Sarracenia. According to the International Carnivorous Plant Society, Sarracenia species cross, back-cross and re-cross so frequently, they create "hybrid swarms" in the woods. 

There's even a hybrid of Sarracenia that another scientist named after Dr. Naczi. It's no wonder Dr. Naczi has spent much of his career curating pitcher plants.


Joy Y. Wang


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