Beauty with bite

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By Beth Gilomen
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Visiting the Conservatory of Flowers’ current special exhibit, Chomp, flooded me with memories of fourth grade field trips – if they’d had a “Little Shop of Horrors” theme. Yes, the playfully titled show features carnivorous plants from all over the world (that’s right, these plants eat meat), displayed almost too close for comfort.P1010053.JPG

I say “almost,” because I was assured that none of these hungry little predators are harmful to humans. Even sticking your finger inside a Nepenthes pitcher and leaving it there for a few days will only give you a sunburn-like discomfort. Of course, you wouldn’t want to let your pet mice near one.

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So what’s the point of the show aside from sending a shiver down your spine? Why, environmental education, of course! Organizations like the International Carnivorous Plant Society are working to cultivate and preserve the hundreds of species in existence. Meanwhile, humans have destroyed 95% of the wetlands suitable for growing carnivorous plants in the United States. Teaching about the plants and their important role in wetland ecosystems is an important step, then, in preserving those habitats that remain.

Whether you subscribe to the activist sentiment or not, though, the display is well worth seeing. You can stop by on weekends for a "feeding" demonstration or a dissection, where you’ll watch insect remains pour from the plants' bellies. And if you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can take home your very own Venus Fly Trap from the gift shop. Just be careful where you put your fingers – or your small pets.

Now through November 4, Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Admission: Free to $5, depending on age. For more information visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org