Tattoo artist enamored with Venus flytraps turned his hobby into a quirky business

Photo courtesy of Shellby Reyes

Just like the European explorers who discovered them in the 1700s, more and more people are falling prey to the captivating beauty of carnivorous plants, especially the Venus flytrap.

A lifelong interest in carnivorous plants

Shellby Reyes is among a growing tribe of carnivorous plant growers in the Philippines. Reyes’s online carnivorous plant business, Trippy Traps, started as a hobby. He is a professional tattoo artist by trade and owner of Chronic Tattoo X Culture tattoo studio in Pasig City. He operates his carnivorous plant nursery and shop in his spare time as a family business with his wife, Mia Claravall-Reyes and their children. 

Shellby Reyes and his wife, Mia Claravall-Reyes. (Shellby Reyes)

“I have always been fascinated with carnivorous plants – how they evolved from ordinary plants in a nutrient-poor environment to insect-eating plants. Growing up, I always saw them in video games, movies, and cartoons,” he shared. He was so fascinated that he even got a tattoo of a Venus flytrap on his arm. 

The curious case of the insect-eating Venus flytrap

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous plant native to the coastal muddy lands of North and South Carolina in the United States. 

A Venus flytrap about to devour an insect. (Shellby Reyes)

The Venus flytrap is said to have been discovered by John Ellis in North Carolina, United States in 1769. He relayed his discovery to the botanist Carl Linnaeus, known as the “Father of Modern Taxonomy,” and named its scientific name Dionaea muscipula after the Greek goddess Diana (who the Romans called Venus) and muscipula, which is Latin for ‘mousetrap.’ “They are unique since other plants usually get their nutrients through their roots and leaves. They ‘feed’ by emitting a scent that attracts insects and uses their trap to catch and digest the bug,” Reyes shared. 

Turning a childhood hobby into niche business

Reyes took his interest in Venus flytraps to the next level when he started collecting live plants and tried growing them in 2018. As the years went by, he reimagined his hobby as a business, though it was only in  2022 that this venture found fruition.

A cup of “Monster Munchies” and tweezers that come with every plant set. (Shellby Reyes)

A horticulture seminar by Mr. Lebon Ong earlier this year encouraged him to turn his hobby into a business. “As a homeschooling parent, I wanted my children to get involved in this project and learn from the experience. We want to educate more kids and kids at heart about how fascinating to observe and be part of its preservation,” he shared. 

From ‘mysterious monsters’ to ‘trendy’ plants

Trippy Traps sells different cultivars of Venus flytraps arranged in desktop-friendly and artsy design setups. Their products are popular among students, homeschoolers, and plant collectors. Reyes says that owning a Venus Flytrap sparks curiosity and interest in children about how plants evolve and play a big part in the ecosystem. They also lessen the presence of insects in the area where they are placed.

A fly getting “eaten” by a Venus flytrap. (Shellby Reyes)

Time and effort are needed to put together the product from scratch. Each plant undergoes careful packaging, plant grooming, and acclimation before they get adopted by the new plant parent. “We source our plants locally from different collectors and growers. They are packed and secured with care before being transported,” he shared. 

Some Trippy Traps Venus flytrap sets inside Chronic Tattoo X Culture tattoo shop. (Shellby Reyes)

To allow owners to experience feeding their carnivorous plant babies, tweezers and “Monster Munchies” (black soldier fly larvae) are also included in Trippy Traps plant packages. “Trippy Traps has put together an easy care system that is less maintenance in watering. All you need to do is to refill the pot with rainwater. They thrive well with at least 12 hours of sunlight,” he shared. 

A close-up view of a Trippy Traps box containing Venus flytraps and a mini-garden with a human skeleton figure, as if it was being devoured by the little monsters. (Shellby Reyes)

The Reyeses are still balancing out their business, including their branding and logistical concerns. However, they are planning to expand their carnivorous plant products and participate in more gardening and plant expos next year. Reyes says that Trippy Traps will continue to thrive with research, patience, innovation, and creativity as its main principles. “Keep on creating, our imagination is endless,” he shared.

Photos courtesy of Shellby Reyes 

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