A couple of years ago, a woman came into the nursery and bought a few plants from us. She told me, almost shyly, that she had come to the greenhouse the previous year with some friends, and just looked around. She said she was amazed. Then she admitted, "I started having dreams about them. Many dreams. The dreams made me happy. And I came back, bought a few plants, and now I'm addicted!" She still comes into the nursery once or twice a year, adding to her collection.
When I first opened California Carnivores to the public in 1990, Sunset Magazine did a feature on us. In the article, the writer mentioned my own dreams of these weird and wonderful plants. A few people who read the article also mentioned their own carnivorous plant dreams to me.
I had started to grow and collect carnivorous plants way back in the late 1960s. Through high school I had quite a collection for the time, but all were plants native to North America. They were the only ones primarily available back then. I read the few books that existed on the plants and never thought I would see many of the exotic species that existed all over the world.
When I left for college in Miami, Florida, I gave my collection to a high school friend. You can guess what happened to them. Sigh. The only plant I took with me to college was a purple pitcher plant I had grown for a few years that originated from a bog near my hometown on the New Jersey shore, a site that has since been destroyed. The plant nearly died that first winter in Florida, until I had sense enough to refrigerate it for it's dormancy. I spent only two years in southern Florida and managed to keep the plant alive. Then I moved to San Francisco with a bunch of friends and the plant thrived both on a sunny windowsill and outdoors on a tiny deck I had off my apartment. The only other carnivorous plant I had was a Venus flytrap I found for sale at a hardware store.
This was when the dreams started. It was in the mid 1970s. I had begun a daily journal of my life when I arrived at college (and continue it to this day!) and I recorded not only everyday events but also started writing down my dreams. I also got involved with metaphysics, and enjoyed doing dreamwork, where I would work with interpreting my dreams to help solve waking problems.
I was having dreams about carnivorous plants nearly EVERY NIGHT! My journals are full of them! The dreams pretty much took on two different themes.
One type I call the "high dreams". In a typical one, I would be doing something like driving in a car with friends. I'd look out the car window and I would scream to the driver "Stop the car!" I and my dream friends would pile out of the car and walk into a wet grassy meadow on the side of the road. There would be pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts and Venus flytraps growing there. We'd all oohhh and ahhhh, they would be spectacular looking, and it was almost like hearing the angels sing! It was ecstasy! I'd wake up from the dream, happy and euphoric!
The other type of dream was more subtle but strange. I would be involved with whatever the dream was about, typical weirdness and sometimes conflicts, like being in a house with other people, or arguing with someone, or at a party with friends, or whatever. In this type of dream I would glance out of, say, a kitchen window. There in the lawn I would see a pitcher plant growing. Or I would be in a room and on a table in the background there would be a pot of Venus flytraps. Or on a wall would be hanging a painting or photograph of this or that carnivorous plant. In this type of dream the carnivorous plant would never be a major part of the dream, but lurking quietly in the background.
Strangely- and what dreams aren't strange?- some of the previously mentioned "high dreams" took place in the same bog! It was a dream landscape I returned to several times a year, but not a real bog that I had ever visited in waking life. I'd always be alone in this dream. There was a dirt road meandering through a grassy area with shallow ponds and wet boggy spots and some pine trees around, and all along the sides of this road were many carnivorous plants. What's so unusual was that it was the same place dream after dream, with the same plants I would hunt out, remembering exactly where they grew, plants like Drosera intermedia or thread-leaves sundews, or trumpet plants, or patches of Venus flytraps.
At this time, in my early twenties, I was also stressed out over personal matters, one of them being writer's block. I had been a prolific writer of fiction, short stories and novellas, in high school, and upon entering college, I just couldn't write anything except my journal. So I entered therapy with a very nice therapist for a couple of years and it was a tremendous help.
Of course I told him about my carnivorous plant dreams. I fretted about them, having read Freud and Jung and attending dreamwork classes. What did they mean? Were they unconscious sexual symbols? (Most of us realize how sexual carnivorous plants can indeed look!) Were they some sort of mandala creations of my mind? (Many carnivorous plants do indeed have shapes like Jung's rosetted mandala symbols). Were they representing "traps of love" or some suppressed conflict? I begged my therapist to help me understand why was having these intense dreams almost every night!
And I remembered him looking at me and smiling. "Maybe they just mean you should start collecting and growing them again." DING!!!!
Well, that's what I did, as the carnivorous plant hobby and society was just beginning to unfold it's modern day history. The dreams continued and my collection grew.
And as mentioned in that Sunset Magazine article, it was when I started California Carnivores that the dreams STOPPED! It was surreal. Oh, every now and then, maybe once or twice a year, they'll return. In fact a few months ago I had a dream where I was once again back in that familiar bog, and all of the plants were still there, just as I had experienced decades ago.
To Carl Jung, perhaps they were symbols to help make my psyche "whole again". Or to Sigmund Freud, "wish fulfillment". Whatever the reason, they helped me make my dreams a reality.