By Kevin Collison
David Bird has been a colorful fixture at the City Market in downtown Kansas City for 15 years, delighting shoppers on Saturday mornings with beautiful orchids grown in his operation in a limestone cave.
But despite their myriad shapes and colors, people gradually began to lose interest in his orchids and sales flattened. So about three years ago, Bird decided to try something a bit more exotic to diversify his offerings, carnivorous plants.
“I started with Venus Flytraps and people thought, this is cool, and I decided I was onto something,” he said. “Then I got a Tropical Pitcher Plant and it was a show-stopper, people had never seen one before.
“Pretty soon, kids would tell their parents, I want one.
“Now our challenge is what can we continue to bring to the market that’s weird and wonderful? Something people don’t expect or know anything about.”
The Tropical Pitcher Plant originally found its way into Bird’s Botanical operation at the Interstate Underground Warehouse when a friend gave Bird five ailing plants. He hung them up in the cave, watered and fertilized them regularly, but beyond that, paid little attention.
They grew new pitchers and Bird made cuttings and began growing more. The plant traps insects that enter its pitchers seeking nectar and instead fall into digestive fluid.
Jeff Lewis, a participant at one of the orchid classes Bird teaches noticed the Pitcher Plant. Lewis liked the carnivorous plants, and now he’s helping Bird find and grow more.
“The orchids are great, but that’s a small percentage of the market now,” Bird said. “Now that we’ve diversified, people are coming to us to find the weird stuff.”
His City Market hours are Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m. Sundays are more relaxed, the hours are roughly 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you can’t make it to the City Market, or just want to see the growing operation in the cave, hours are Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.