If you’ve never heard of Phil Faulisi, you probably will soon! Phil is a Sarracenia breeder who just may have sold his most expensive hybrid on record! Sarracenia “Saurus” sold for $1,025 USD in an eBay auction last Friday, and the online carnivorous plant community is abuzz! People have very polarizing opinions about the sale and the plant itself, and watching the debate has certainly been interesting!
Mr. Faulisi has received criticism and congratulations, and some curious folks simply asking, “Why so much?” Which is a fair question, and what I’ll be discussing in this post. I will say straight up: I’m in the congratulations camp. You are free to grumble and leave or stay and read!
So what are some of the reasons why someone would pay this much for a plant?
First, basic plant specs. Check out these photos. Sarracenia “Saurus” is HUGE! (insert dirty size joke here) I’ve never seen it in person, but pitchers can reach 40″ tall, if not taller. The mouth is also really wide in proportion to its height. Grown men can put a whole hand down the pitcher, so I bet I could fit both of my tiny girly hands! The parents of the plant are S. leucophylla “purple lips” and S. flava var “ornata”. “Saurus” displays intricate veins taken from both parents throughout the entire pitcher, with white tops and pink lips from the leucophylla genes that also turn a dark purple-pink later in the season. “Saurus” also has a distinctive “funky lip” similar to “Reptilian Rose” or “Royal Ruby” but looks neater and more symmetrical from what I’ve seen. Based on looks alone, this plant is definitely a stunner!
Second, how the plant was created. Phil Faulisi has been breeding Sarracenia for over 20 years, and is extremely selective about his crosses. He doesn’t cross randomly, but plans out his crosses for years with a specific goal in mind. He’s thrown away thousands of “mediocre” seedlings to focus on creating the best hybrids that he can. Mr. Faulisi also grows his plants outdoors in very low-humidity conditions, which is not ideal for these plants. Because he is so focused on creating plants with superior genetics, his plants have thrived under his care and his customers are guaranteed to receive healthy, robust plants. They may even fare better in their new homes if their humidity is higher! He’s spent years, craft, precision and perfectionism to ensure these plants are the absolute best they can be. For the highest quality of anything you buy, expect to pay a premium.
Third, the aspect of scarcity. To my knowledge, Sarracenia “Saurus” is only owned by three people. Phil Faulisi, the anonymous buyer, and Rob Co of The Pitcher Plant Project, who also named the plant. Could prices go down in the future as clones are propagated and sold? Possibly, but not likely anytime soon or by very much. Falusi’s plant tend to hold their value over many years. His cultivar S. “Royal Ruby” has been in cultivation for 15 years and sold for $322.77 at his last eBay auction. Even “old” currently mass-produced plants don’t guarantee rock-bottom prices. S. “Adrian Slack” was found in the 1980s, registered in 2000, and recently propagated via tissue culture by California Carnivores. The current asking price is $124.95 USD.
I understand the criticism, though!
You can draw some parallels to this from expensive art, dog breeds, or fashion designers. Phil Faulisi is becoming the Jackson Pollock/Tibetan mastiff/Louboutin of the carnivorous plant world, and I can see why that’s off-putting to some people. I think buying expensive stuff just to have a status symbol is dumb, especially if you’re not living within your means. I’m a practical spender and I hate seeing money get wasted. Really, I’m just another person living in a dated apartment, driving a 12-year-old Toyota, and working too hard for too little. I totally get it.
That being said, I’m just going to speculate that the “Saurus” buyer is knowledgeable and passionate about Sarracenia, and probably carnivorous plants in general. Faulisi mentioned the buyer was a returning customer, which supports this. He or she is likely to be a paying ICPS member, and therefore also likely to donate a fair amount toward carnivorous plant conservation efforts. I’ll also speculate that he or she has the disposable income to spend $1000 on a plant and can probably afford some other nice things too.
If he/she loves these plants that much, that’s awesome! It doesn’t bother me that another carnivorous plant lover got an excellent plant. Nor does it bother me that this person probably has more money than me. Why should it? I have friends that make less money than me, and I have friends that make more. But we’re still friends because we have stuff in common and we like each other as people.
But what really makes this different from just another rich person buying expensive stuff, is plant collectors are placing a higher value on hand-selected, man-made hybrids. This could prevent the whole Sarracenia genus from going completely extinct. The interest and demand is there for a diverse and robust gene pool in cultivation, and that should be celebrated! If there are people like Phil creating and distributing these hybrids, we have an excellent shot of strong, healthy plants thriving in collections that may be able to repopulate wild populations too!
The why has several factors involved, but ultimately it’s because someone chose to purchase the plant for that amount. If you really want to know why, you would need to ask the anonymous buyer. But really, asking someone why they spent X dollars on Y thing is a pretty personal question. If someone asked me why I spent $600ish on my tattoos, I would find that rude. If you ask my dad why he spent so much on fly-fishing rods, he would probably smack you on the ear with it and tell you to learn some manners.
Where someone spends their money is a personal choice, and frankly no one else’s business. But oh, do people love to comment and make judgments based on how much is spent and on what it’s spent on!
And hey, controversy is sexy! It draws attention and gets people interested. All this talk will likely drive up the demand and prices of Mr. Faulisi’s plants, and I think that’s fantastic. It means more people want Sarracenia, and they want plants that are beautiful, robust and healthy from years of highly selective breeding and hard work.
If all this hooplah draws more people into the carnivorous plant hobby and gives them an opportunity to preserve an amazing life form that is not only healthy and beautiful, but a piece of American natural history that is rapidly declining, how could that possibly be a bad thing?
Thanks so much for reading! I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments below! I know you’ll keep ’em civil and non-personal. 😉