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The best flava rugelii site I've ever seen is also the scariest site I've ever been to. Damon & Axel of California Carnivores accompanied me on a trip to the deep south, and we're talkin' DEEP South! The site is located deep in the forest on dirt roads that don't show up on the maps, and judging by the lack of foot traffic, this spot isn't visited very often, or so we thought! Being in a very isolated forest far from civilization has both it's charm and danger: one minute, you're in paradise, standing in front of hundreds of thousands of wild plants that are giant and thriving. In the snap of a finger, you're in survival mode making decisions while adrenaline rushes through your body. This site was recently burned, and there was a massive amount of seedlings everywhere, which indicates a very healthy and thriving population. While there are flava sites in the Carolinas that are larger than this site, this is by far the largest population of flavas I've ever seen in the wild. Literally, as far as the eye can see, there's a "river" of flavas that follow a gentle slope, much like how Darlingtonias are found in seeps: Notice how they all grow in what looks like a river that's somewhat dried out. It wasn't extremely wet at this site, but it wasn't dry either: The usual suspects, Damon Collingsworth and Axel Bostom of California Carnivores: Some more habitat shots: I was surprised to find some very bright white S. leucophylla var. albas here. We've seen a lot of sites in Okaloosa Co, FL, and very few had albas like this: They weren't really eating much this time of the year which is strange because last year, every single trap was loaded with insects. The flavas were also not very well fed: Stunning beauties like this were everywhere, and they were gigantic! I hear Damon and Axel yelling at me to go back and we had only been there for a good 15 minutes. Granted, I'm always the one who wants to stay, but in this case I was like "Really? We literally just got here, C'mon man!" I stubbornly said I'll be there in a minute-for the love of Jesus, I had barely taken any pictures yet! But then I saw them running at me frantically, and I wasn't sure of what to make of that, so I took a picture: Axel: "Mike, did you just hear that?" Mike: "hear what?" We paused for a second and heard a creepy whistle that started out in monotone and then ended with an upglide, followed by a gunshot in our direction! It continued 2 more times, and worst of all, the sound was coming from the direction of our car, which was not close but not too far away. I've done a lot of shooting, and it sounded like either a 12 gauge or 20 gauge shotgun, so I knew unless he had sluggers in there, we're safe if we're far away from him. We did our due diligence prior to "boggin" and knew hunting this time of year is with bow and arrow only, and who goes out to the middle of the forest on a TUESDAY in the middle of nowhere?! Okay, to give Damon and Axel credit, they weren't being wussies because it was 100F out there and it felt like 115F, we were definitely in some serious danger. Damon and Axel were about a 1000 yards from me and because of the hilly nature of the site, a lot of the sound gets absorbed so it's hard to hear even a loud cry for help or gunshot nearby. We were in trouble. I was pumped with adrenaline and in survival mode, and rationalized that there were two options: creep back to the car carefully while hiding behind trees and scouting the situation, or find another road and follow it back to the highway. I have a 6th sense when it comes to directions and wasn't worried about getting lost, but we decided it made more sense to see if we can scout out the situation because without water, you're in even more danger. IT's tough finding drinking water in an area that is as warm and hostile as NW Florida (it hasn't rained much recently). We all decided to slowly check out the car after a little bit of time had passed and the gunshots ceased. As we carefully approached the car, it was still there in perfect condition and nobody was in sight. Needless to say, we got into the car as quickly as possible and left at BALLER speed on the sketchy dirt road. Take home message is that even with a lot of experience and a good size group, people don't realize just how dangerous it is out there. One second you're in paradise and in the blink of an eye, you're in fight or flight mode. More to come, this wasn't the only gunshots we heard on the trip!
Several populations of "red flavas" exist in northwestern Florida: Liberty Co, Bay Co, Walton Co, Okaloosa Co, and Santa Rosa Co, FL (they probably are found in other counties as well). Flavas with red bodies and green lids are considered S. flava var. rubricorpora, whereas flavas with solid red bodies are considered S. flava var. atropurpurea. In Liberty Co and Bay Co, there are large populations of S. flava var. rubricorpora, but arguably, some consider individuals in these populations S. flava var. atropurpurea because at the time they were seen, the plant was solid red. Trouble is, in cultivation, amongst many different growers, it has been shown that many plants labeled "atropurpurea" start off with a green lid, and as the pitcher ages, the entire trap turns solid red. Are these rubricorporas, or are these atropurpureas? Interestingly enough, in Okaloosa Co, FL and Santa Rosa Co, FL, there are both plants that resemble S. flava var. rubricorpora and S. flava var. atropurpurea. The S. flava var. atropurpureas from these sites start off solid red. However, plants from these sites strongly resemble the rare S. flava var. atropurpurea found in the Carolinas. Do these "atropurpureas" from Okaloosa Co and Santa Rosa Co, FL occur naturally, or did someone plant them at these sites? In Santa Rosa Co, FL, Damon, Axel and I visited 2 different sites that were roughly 20 miles away from each other (ie.not within a reasonable distance to hybridize with each other) and we found red plants at both of these sites! Here's site #1 in santa Rosa Co, FL. This is an old pitcher from the summer, and the lid is still green, while the body is solid red. Arguably, this can be considered S. flava var. rubricorpora (although, genetically, I think this is plant is very different from the bay co and liberty co plants): Another shot: Close up of the lid: Same site, baby "S. flava var. rubricorpora" plant: Now, let's go 20 miles away to site #2, and here we have what appears to be S. flava var. atorpurpurea. Was the lid on this plant green before it turned solid red? I don't know, but my gut says no: Same plant, back view: This one seems to be back-crossed with S. flava var. rugelii: And at this same site, we found S. x catesbaei: notice the strong resemblance in color. Hmmmmmm: A group of S. flava var. "atropurpureas" with S. flava var. rugeliis: Now, let's take a tour of the famous site in Okaloosa Co, FL, where there's a very large S. flava var. atropurpurea population. Notice I'm using the word "atropurpurea" here with confidence: These plants have been verified to produce solid red lids on brand new pitchers. Here's a distant view of the largest population of S. flava var. atropurpureas in this area: Breath-taking beauty!
While in Sarracenia territory, we happened to stumble upon a couple of pinguiculas in the wild. Butterworts weren't found at many sites, but when they were there, they grew in abundance. Interestingly enough, they could be found in areas that no sarracenia (has ever gone before, hehe) could ever survive because it was way too dry! Perhaps these Southern butterworts are somewhat like their mexican cousins in the sense that they produce relatively succulent leaves, which allow them to tolerate more drought-like conditions. Their compact growth and small surface area may also be the reason they can grow in these dry areas. We mostly saw Pingicula lutea in a lot of sites, and I was shocked to see many of these yellow flowered butterworts produced thin, pencil-like elongated leaves. unfortunately, I don't think I photographed any . Perhaps this is because the grass gets so tall by end of the summer that they have to find some way to get more light, or else they'll bite the dust. I had been dreaming of finding P. primuliflora before the trip (never seen it in situ before), and on the plane ride home, I lamented that we didn't see any....until we went over the photos and realized we did see them!!!! Sorry Fernando, if you're out there, we didn't mean to let you down with our crappy ping skills :) Anyhow, here are the photos! P. lutea in situ at the S. rubra wherryi roadside site in Washington Co, AL. Notice how just like the rubra wherryi's, the pings also survived being run over by a tractor...they're tough little gems: Closer shot of a single plant from the same site: medium was this really fine, silty clay with a pinch of well decomposed organic, peaty material mixed in: I think this is another roadside population in washington Co, AL: They loved to inhabit the open areas, and seemed to thrive in full sun: Brown chicken, brown cow!!! Yes, these are that hot (to me at least): These were huge P. lutea plants-just beautiful: I wasn't meant to be a photographer: Here's some growing at a site in okaloosa Co, FL: Drosera capillaris (?) is a common companion plant: Butterworts were worse to find than S. psittacina-this is what you're typically up against...can you find the P. lutea in this picture? Some of the P. luteas were pretty big: P. primuliflora was growing in the very wet, boggy areas. Okaloosa Co, FL: A closer shot-I'm double guessing myself, but I'm sorta sure these are primulifloras: One last shot:
My friends Damon and Axel of California Carnivores and I had the opportunity to check out the "flava atropurpurea" site in Okaloosa Co, FL, and while most eyes are on the flavas, my eyes were on the leucos! Not much is heard about, spoken of, or known about gigantic leucophyllas out there, and two years back, we discovered a gigantic plant in Baldwin Co, AL. This year, after seeing 100's of 1000's of S. leucophylla plants in the wild, we happen to stumble upon one gigantic plant! It's tough to see just how big they are in the photographs, but I did my best to give you a sense of just how big these monsters get. One interesting detail about this site is that it's located in the hills. Who would have thought that sarracenia bogs were found in the middle of a hilly forest?! More details on that in future posts. While the photographs we took depict a beautiful, tranquil scene, I assure you this is an incredibly hostile environment! Temperatures were near the 100's that day, and we constantly had to go back to the car, turn on the AC, and recover every 2 hours or so. In a lot of places, the grass is so tall you can't see you feet. This habitat is perfect for many deadly and venomous snakes! Every step you take could be your last one, as their teeth are sharp enough to go through hiking shoes and rubber boots. HEat exhaustion is no joke, and we were constantly drenched in sweat. Hiking under such conditions can be dangerous if you don't pay attention to staying hydrated. It's nice to look back at the photographs in the safetly of your home! For your viewing pleasure, below are photos of S. leucophylla growing in the wild in Okaloosa Co, FL. Photos were taken 9/7/13 and 9/8/13: The giant S. leucophylla! Lynx spider and some love bugs on the giant pitcher: Another shot of the giant trap: Close up: Lynx spider with prey on the gigantic trap: Damon Collinsworth in situ with the gigantic plant: one of the rare circumstances where he isn't ruining the photo: Mike Wang in situ with the same gigantic plant: And now for some other clones at this site-many plants were very white: large clumps of the same clone were fairly common here, indicating a happy environment for these plants: