Sarracenia “Saurus” – beautiful, expensive, and controversial!

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?

 

Sarracenia "Saurus" by Phil Falusi, bought for $1,025.
Sarracenia “Saurus”. The plant that sparked all the hooplah!

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!

 

In conclusion…

 

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. 😉

15 comments

  1. Ryan says:

    That plant is incredible! I’d love to see it in person.

    This argument kinda echos things I hear from potential customers in my fields of art and design. “I like this painting, but why does it cost so much?” People often don’t want to pay for the work that went into creating things. If you don’t want to pay for “expensive” art, buy from someone who doesn’t value their time and effort. If you don’t want to pay for expensive plants, buy from someone who hasn’t dedicated their life to the craft.

    I think a lot of people are just envious of the buyer on some level, whether they acknowledge it or not. Just because you can’t afford something doesn’t mean that someone can’t charge enough to make a reasonable living.

    “You”, of course, is directed at the people complaining.

    • Maria says:

      Ryan, thank you so much for this comment!

      I come from an arts background as well, so I totally get where you’re coming from! Clearly if someone is moaning about the price and doesn’t understand WHY it’s priced that high, they’re not the target customer for it!

      Fortunately, there is art and plants available available at every price point. 🙂

  2. Phil Faulisi says:

    Thanks for all the kind words folks. I would also like to mention that the plant that sold was priced at $9.99. The final selling price was entirely buyer driven.

  3. Devon says:

    Great post Maria, I enjoyed reading it a lot. I’m on Team Congrats as well, since it’s pretty clear that Phil is an asset to the community rather than a liability – it’s better that dedicated breeders make money than low-down dirty poachers, and there are poachers making lots of money on CPS.

    This sort of event is definitely a positive thing for the carnivorous plant community, since it builds buzz and gets people thinking about what exactly we’re growing these plants for, and how serious the hobby can get. The more people who can make money growing carnivorous plants in a responsible and professional way the better.

  4. katyadog1 says:

    Bingo, Maria. I see no problem with plants selling for that much, and I think that these points you posted just make sense. I really don’t know what makes people care about the WHY, we should be glad we have such a great grower who is making all these beautiful crosses.

    Each to his own opinion though, just my two cents.

    • Maria says:

      Thanks, katya! Money is an interesting thing, and how people react to it being used is very interesting to me!

  5. Brooks says:

    There is way more here below the surface that is not seen. I too have been breeding Sarracenias for 12+ years. What needs to be taken into account is the time, effort, knowledge and 1000s if not 10s of 1000 of plants that must be grown out and culled to select the best of the best: things like – pots, potting mix and water bills, time, plus, plus, plus. I myself was faced with a $6000 water bill. How does one factor in all this into the price of a plant? This is an expensive ‘hobby’ that easily gets out of control.

    • Maria says:

      All super excellent points! I can’t even compare my humble patio collection to the thousands of seedlings to be germinated and cared for a certain point, then to be cut out. Thank you so much for commenting, Brooks!

  6. Megan says:

    BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN!!! I am so jealous of whoever bought that Sarr! If I had the money to buy rare expensive carnivorous plants I’d spend that much too! Keep up the great articles girl 😀

  7. Ruben says:

    I know I’m late to this party, but I completely agree on all points. My hope is that this WOULD make people outside of the CP community ask the “What? Why? For a PLANT?” questions, because it allows us to respond with “yes, that’s how important we think it is cultivate and maintain these quickly vanishing and highly endangered jewels of nature, not simply as hobbyists but as inherent conservationists also.” Maybe you can follow that up by reminding them that the wild spaces where these incredible plants grow/grew are or have been replaced by parking lots, supermarkets and housing developments for scores of people that likely don’t even know these plants exist.

    PS, as a fly fisherman and person with manners, I’d probably thwack someone on the head if I heard them ask your dad that question too! “Why did he pay thay much?! BECAUSE SHUTUP, THAT’S WHY, RUDEPANTS!”

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