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Here's another site way high up in the mountains that's actually relatively small, but jam packed with plants! We nick-named it the mountain creek site because a creek runs right through the middle of the habitat and, well, it's in the mountains! Not really rocket science :) The plants here are absolutely outstanding, and many were producing very large traps. Here's the creek that gives the site its name: despite low water levels and record drought, there was still plenty of water at this site: Do you see the mountain the background? It's made of very porous rocks, and those rocks collect moisture. Because of the volume of rocks and spaces in between the rocks of this mountain, water collects like a sponge. Downhill (where the darlingtonia site is) water constantly seeps out from the mountain, and the beginning of the spring is where Darlingtonias grow: All of this water feeds down a steep creek, which eventually feeds into the river that goes to the ocean. At the bottom of this valley in the background is the creek: But let's go back to the site. "Ay, yo Rob!!!": remember all of those darlingtonias you killed in the past? Well, don't feel so bad, they also die out in the wild. Here are some skeletal remains and even some dying seedlings. Why are they biting the dust? My guess, in this instance, is heat stress. Usually, water diversion causes issues, but you can clearly see water in this photo: Further evidence of heat stress:recent burning of the traps: Rob tested the water at various sites, and the range was between 30ppm to about 70ppm. I believe this site was around 40 ppm (can't remember for sure). Salty water isn't likely the cause of death here: This was definitely a site to behold: Some red plants grow here too! Powdery mildew is common in the wild: Plants can form dense populations: What are Darlingtonias eating in the wild? I've been visiting sites for almost 2 decades now and have never opened one up, but I felt it was important for us all to see what's inside: cucumber beetles, and mainly flying insects. Notice the maggots at the top of the pile of dead bodies: what you can't tell is before the trap was split open, it was filled with this really nasty, rotting water! The maggots were on top of all the corpses so they wouldn't be under water:
This site is unique in the sense that it occurs in a chaparral habitat. A chaparral habitat is a community of plants consisting mainly of short, dense shrubs. In california, you will find a lot of manzanita, some madrone, caenothus, sage, etc. growing in such habitats. This plant community will eventually become very thick, and relies heavily on fire every 2-3 decades or so to clear out the vegetation and allow new growth to resume. Many of the seeds in this plant community will only germinate when burned .A chaparral habitat is much like a Sarracenia habitat in the sense that it relies on fire for long term maintenance. One thing notable in this population of Darlingtonias is that in previous years, there were many burnt, "sorry" looking plants. When I last visited this site in 2010, I thought it was just bad weather that's causing mechanical damage to the traps. However, upon seeing this site again in 2013 and seeing the same high ratio of burnt/dead traps, it seems like the issue is this site! Other neighboring seeps were in perfect condition this year. Chaparral communities are generally in full sun and have little protection from trees, and my haunch is that it gets too hot every summer at this site, which causes the pitchers to burn. I've seen the same thing happen to an "inland" population in Oregon that also gets full sun and seems to have sun-burnt pitchers year after year. Interestingly, these populations remain healthy, and even if the main plant dies, they send out so many stolons, it doesn't matter. Despite the heat stress, Almost every last square inch of colonizable space is occupied by Darlingtonia at this site: Overview of "cedar springs": Despite the high ratio of dead pitchers, this site is in fairly good shape-there are a lot of healthy rhizomes in there. Photos taken 10/12/13: another shot of the seep-notice how the surrounding vegegation is pretty short: A cedar branch is seen on the left of this fen: If you look in the background of this photo, notice the short shrubby chaparral habitat. Aside from the seep, this entire surrounding area is very dry: The fen flows into some thick shrubs: Did genetics cause this trap to turn a mouth-watering bright yellow, or is it from water/heat stress? This was in the middle of the "creek" so I have doubts about water stress causing this: What an amazing color! I'll have to come back in a few years and see if this thing is yellow year after year Happy traps: Weird tongue: These were looking great. The site actually looked better this year than in 2010: Some fall colors in the background-the surroundings really increased the beauty of this site : Sooooo many dead traps: