Sowing seeds of passion: Horticulturist turns childhood hobby into niche business

As the scent of honey floats through the air and homemade jewelry gleams in the sun, Venus flytraps lie in wait for unsuspecting insects to land between their waxy jaws. The trays of plants and a sign reading “Fayetteville Fly Traps” rest on a tiny table nestled among other vendors at the Fayetteville Farmers Market. Horticulturist Juan Moscoso, 25, stands behind the table, ready to show customers the vast diversity and beauty carnivorous plants have to offer.

Moscoso, a 2019 UA graduate, began selling flytraps at the farmers market in April 2020 and finds customers are drawn to his table by his plants’ uniqueness. Scientists have identified about 630 species of carnivorous plants, making up just .2% of the world’s plant population.

The horticulturist’s passion for carnivorous plants has roots in the time he was 13 and living in Cali, Colombia. Moscoso remembers first experiencing the plants through the glow of a television screen, and soon after gravitated to the sticky tentacles and bright flowers of the sundew, a type of carnivorous plant, at Cali’s botanical gardens.

“I’ve always had a taste for things that are weird and strange,” Moscoso said. “When I first saw those plants, I really loved them.”

Moscoso’s business is not limited to Northwest Arkansas. He recently obtained a license allowing him to ship plants to customers across the United States. Moscoso’s success has inspired him to take his passion a step beyond simply growing the rare plants, by cross-pollinating them and breeding his own varieties.

Garry McDonald, a UA horticulture clinical assistant professor, said he first noticed Moscoso’s passion for carnivorous plants when Moscoso was a student in his plant propagation class. The two would often meet to talk about methods of breeding carnivorous plants, and it has been satisfying to see Moscoso bring his ideas to fruition, McDonald said.

“He was a student who had a real interest and a real passion in a very small, niche market,” McDonald said. “He thought there was an opportunity there and he seized upon it.”

Moscoso looks forward to exploring even more ways to expand the niche business he built from the ground up after starting as a bright-eyed boy in front of a television in Colombia. “I feel like I am on a hill going up,” Moscoso said. “It’s going to take a couple more years to build more customers and more product.”

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