Posted by Mike at PetFlyTrap.com on 7/24/2021 to Carnivorous Plant Fun Facts
Exciting times at PetFlyTrap.com!!
If you've been reading PetFlyTrap.com's posts and blogs for a while, you probably are aware of the effort by Mike Howlett, owner of PetFlyTrap.com, to secure a seat on Inspiration4 - the very first SpaceX all-civilian mission to space (watch the video here). Mike was keenly interested in replicating some of the experimentation on carnivorous sundew plants that was originally conducted by famous biologist Charles Darwin in the mid-1800s (and related in detail in his book Insectivorous Plants, which was first published in 1875), and to take a small assortment of carnivorous plant seeds and plantlets on the mission as well. While Mike was not selected to be a part of the crew, the endeavor still created an opportunity for PetFlyTrap.com to include the experiment(s) and cargo on the mission! We sent a test package of seeds and plantlets to our contact at SpaceX earlier this year for review, and the mission specialists really jumped on the idea! We will be sending a test plant - prepped as it would be for the actual mission - to SpaceX this week, for their pre-launch study/review; and we plan to hand-deliver the actual space-bound cargo to the launch site just before launch. Very cool!
For those who want more detailed information about this endeavor, here goes... A sundew plant (most likely Drosera capensis due to its ability to grow in a variety of conditions) will be packaged in such a way as to allow the crew easy access to the leaves/tentacles of the plant, while still retaining the soil within the pot. We are well-versed in this method...just ask any of our customers who have received any of our plants! The Inspiration4 crew will be able to access the plant and place small pieces of cooked egg albumin (white) and other items on the tentacles, and then review the speed and amount of movement by the tentacles and leaves periodically during the experimentation window. We hope that there might be an opportunity to have some sort of real-time video of the experiment as well! Afterward, the plant will then be returned to us; perhaps this might become a new cultivar in time!
Additionally, a small cargo container will be included with a variety of seeds and tissue-cultured plantlets, which will be returned to us and grown out in our tissue culture program. Our thought is to create a variety of named cultivars based on the fact that these will be plants from space...how neat is that?!? In addition to all of the usual goals of a space mission, one of the primary goals of Inspiration4 is to raise awareness and donations for St. Jude Childrens' Research Hospital, Commander Jared Isaacman has personally donated $100 MILLION to St. Jude already, and hopes to raise another $100 million through additional fundraising methods. So we have some interesting ideas about how PetFlyTrap.com can help him achieve his goal. St. Jude is currently running an Inspiration4 fundraising campaign (which anyone can participate in); and while the details are still in the works, our thoughts are to have a contest on St. Jude's fundraising platform where everyone will donate to our St. Jude fundraiser to get a chance to name one of these cultivars...whatever they want (subject to approval and in good taste, of course)! We are also considering making this a more long-term fundraising venture by making regular donations to St. Jude based on a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sales of the new cultivar(s) that stem from the trip to space.
Imagine...owning a plant that has been to space, or naming your own plant - all the while raising money to help these kids and families who so very much need it. So stay tuned here or on our Facebook page for more details as they become available!
We also neglected to announce the winner of our $100 Inspiration4 video contest earlier this year...congratulations to Ayden K. in CT, who has already selected a very nice Nepenthes hanging basket!