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Our Very Own Richard Wuydts Makes The News!!

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Grinning seductively off to one side of the warm, moist World’s Rare Plants showroom at Pastorino Farms outside Half Moon Bay is a roughly 18-inch garden-décor statue of Seymour, the gleefully murderous star of stage musical and film “Little Shop of Horrors.”

It won’t take long to discover why he’s grinning: when you step into the 30-foot-by-30-foot front showroom, or the 37-foot-by-70-foot adjacent growing room behind it, you’ve entered another world.

The showroom is a hobby-turned-business for Redwood City resident Richard Wuydts (pronounced “Woods.”) Here, plants are neatly arranged in rows of pots from two-inch starters to eight-inch medium-sized pots, sitting in water.

Owner of Crystal Springs Gardening in Redwood City, Wuydts was a landscape architect and licensed contractor for 40 years before giving that up in favor of carnivorous plants.

Now, in the Highway 92 space rented from Pastorino Farms, grower-retailer Wuydts makes carnivorous plants available wholesale to Peninsula nurseries or sells them along with whimsical and attractive garden décor.

From its perch on a table near the door, Seymour sets a humorous tone. The plants are only scary if you are a gnat or fly; to humans, they’re fascinating and colorful.

Boasting a cacophony of spots, stripes or random patterns in deep red, vibrant green, moody purple, luminescent white or buff yellow, they range in size and hardiness. A closer look reveals gaping, wide green mouths or tubes hanging like baggy vases at their sides. These are framed in tiny tendrils or furry with nearly microscopic cilia edged with miniscule beads of fluid glinting in the light.

They have scientific names like “sarracenia,” or more familiar monikers like Venus flytrap, cobra lilies, Mexican butterwort or sundews. But Wuydts pays more attention to the plants themselves.

“I just like playing with plants. I’ve been with plants for all my life,” said Wuydts, moving up and down the rows of plants and nodding his head as if saluting each one in turn. “I don’t have names for them. They are what they are. That’s it.”

Making his way with slow steps up and down the rows, Wuydts is following the love of plants that has been a part of his life since he started pruning his grandfather’s plants at 8. Carefully and meticulously, he tends or transplants them, sprinkles them with meticulously filtered water or just makes time for them.

He shows off their hunting prowess. The mouths of the Venus flytrap have multiple hairs of which only two need to be triggered to clap shut on a fly. Each trap can catch three meals before it dies, but new traps are always being produced.

The sundews show off tiny balls of fluid that glitter in sunlight like disco balls. When a fly lands on the leaf, the tendril rolls up and envelopes it.

These are the one-way gates for insects that slide down the waxy tubes to the plants’ maws, where they are digested. The plants only digest proteins like those found in the bodies of insects; human foods such as fats, cholesterol or ground meat that they cannot digest, will kill them.

With an encyclopedic knowledge gathered from decades in this field, Wuydts is a font of facts and fondness for the plants that spread their brightly colored, patterned beauty to lure in unwary flies or gnats.

When he gently tickles the gaping mouth of a Venus flytrap it snaps shut in seconds. That happens much more quickly, he said, if it is colder than the 80 degrees maintained in the hothouse.

“I like each one because they are all different,” he said. “Every plant has its own personality like every animal does.”

An active member of both the International Carnivorous Plant Club and the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society, Wuydts sports several hybrids — plants developed through crossing with other carnivorous plants — and tells of raising some of them for years until their first blooming, which filled him with delight.

“My wife throught I was going to have a heart attack, I was so happy,” said Wuydts. “I said, ‘Look! Seeds!’”

Wife Mary, and sister Jan, own and operate the store. Wuydts himself does the growing and care of the plants.

He acknowledges that it’s an unusual calling, especially given the painstaking knowledge and attention he gives it. “It’s so far out in the world of plants,” he said. “Most people in plants have no conception of this stuff.”