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Found 18 results

  1. I just got back from a road trip with my good friend Rob Co of The Pitcher Plant Project, and we had the opportunity to see cobra plants in the wild! This was the very first time Rob has ever seen any carnivorous plants in the wild, and it was exciting to see his reactions to the various places we visited. I had visited this exact red darlingtonia site last year, and in 2010, and they are consistently red year after year after year. There are also green plants at this site, which indicates the red is a genetic factor. While I have seen red plants at other sites, I've never seen any other site that contains such a dense population of pure reds. Indeed, this is quite a treat to visit, and it definitely required some off-road vehicles to reach. Here's D. californica 'RED' at the Alpine Farms site in del Norte Co, CA. It's nick-named alpine farms because a huge pot grow was found just above this seep many years ago. While we were driving up the road, there were people loading their guns, probably hunting some animals, but you never know: Red plants are usually a minority in most populations I've visited, but these reds were quite common at this site: not just colorful, but elegant: Zoomed out a little bit: The color is just awesome: No, these aren't photoshopped or altered in any way: this is their natural color: Another shot: bright red tongue: dense populations: And here's the seep:
  2. I remember being in college and having a conversation with a fellow CP expert. He saw how "addicted" I was to Sarracenias, and he said that eventually, I'll probably get bored of them, and then move on and focus on something else. As the years went by, I always reflected on that conversation and thought, how can you get bored of Sarracenias? Within one species, there's as much diversity out there as you can imagine (sadly, there used to be even more than that until most of it was destroyed in the wild). The photos below really demonstrate why many of us will be hooked on pitcher plants till the day we die. There isn't just one S. leucophylla alba out there, but there are hundreds of thousands of individuals, and just like humans, each individual is special and unique. Even regular leucophyllas out there are bright white. Let's say that theoretically, one becomes bored because they've seen and grown 1000's of different clones of every species and variety. Well, then there's the path to hybridization,which probably takes at least 2-3 lifetimes to really explore the endless possibilities. In other words, a lifetime isn't enough time to really experience Sarracenias! all photos below were taken 9/10/13 in northern Baldwin Co, AL: S. leucophylla var. alba-check out how white the interior of the trap is: Another S. leucophylla var. alba, this time with nice red "netting" on the outside: A regular S. leucophylla with heavy "veining." S. leucophylla var. ornata? Shhhh, don't tell Stewart McPherson, hehe Just kidding: Love how the petiole or trap is skiny on the bottom and fat/symmetical at the top: Same clone, but view of the back. Look at how white this clone is! S. leucophylla var. (maybe alba?): A standard looking clump: Mildly pink lip-this clone will probably turn darker pink in the next few months: S. leucophylla var. alba-can you see how no one "var. alba" looks exactly the same? A shapely reddish-pink clone. These red and pink pigments probably come from historic interbreeding with S. rosea and/or S. "alabamensis" ssp. wherryi: Lots of white on this clone, with a beautiful contrasting red at the bottom. Nature is a work of art: Same clone, slightly different angle:
  3. First off, for those of you not familiar with this variant, S. flava 'extreme red throat' is an unofficial, fictitious name to describe a plant that has more red in the throat than the average S. flava var. rugelii. Some would call this plant a rugelii, while others may call it an ornata. I think neither best describes these plants because some of the pitchers don't have veins, some are a bit reddish, and others are rather green. For those of you who want to see "the plant that started this whole thing" here's "the type specimen": http://sarracenia.proboards.com/thread/229/flava-killer-new-pics-added We suspect all of these extreme red throat variants are the result of hybridization and mixing with different species, and then back-crossing. what are the exact ingredients? Maybe a dash of S. flava var. rubricorpora, and a glug of rugelii, or maybe a selfed rubricorpora x rugelii that has a rubricorpora phenotype. Alternately, there may be a moorei here and there that has an extreme red thoat, and then it back-crosses with rugelii to create a "pure" looking plant with an extreme red throat. In the case of the Bay Co, FL plants, it's likely that these extreme red throated plants resulted from mixing with "regular" rugelii's. We did see some rubricorporas at this site that had very solid red throats, but the tricky thing is tracing nature backwards and trying to find out what crossed with what. Only in cultivation or with DNA tests can we find out exactly what's going on. There are a lot of interesting observations about this site that I will explain in detail in another post. For now, this post will focus on the extreme red throat variants. All photos were taken 8/23/14: If this isn't an extreme red throat, I don't know what is: The body on this one is almost pure red, and I wonder if it can turn solid red depending on environmental conditions. For this reason, I don't call this variant ornata: On the other hand, this one is definitely an ornata: Beautiful greenish body to contrast with the deep red: Love this one, even with the "battle wounds": This trap didn't want to cooperate: Some of them turned out "normal" in terms of the amount of red in the throat: Wanna-be extreme red throat: I think this new late summer trap came from a plant that had rubricorpora-colored pitchers on it. The waters are so muddy on nomenclature, but we can debate that in another post :) Deformed pitcher: Another "regular" rugelii, but not quite regular: Slightly out of focus, but this gives you an idea of what the whole plant looks like: And to end the post, a really cute little baby deer that didn't move even when we came really close to it. Believe me, after being shot at, I know exactly how that deer feels.
  4. Deep in the mountains, perhaps a good hour drive on dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere, Rob Co of the pitcher plant project ( http://thepitcherpla...oject.com/blog/ ) and I reached the peak of a mountain, and knew the plants were around here somewhere. Thing is, the habitat completely looked wrong: there were sheer cliffs, and it really didn't seem like there were any streams or water sources nearby. So many unmarked dirt roads veered off the main dirt road. Was that the right one to take, and did we just drive by the site? Doesn't look like even trucks can make it very far on these side roads (and indeed, we had to eventually stop because the boulders in the road were too big). At first, we kept driving, thinking we would just see the site off the side of the road, but then it turned into a deep forest. We definitely passed the site-Damn! Where is it? On the way back, almost about to give up, we saw a really sketchy dirt road that didn't look like it had been driven on for a while...well, we're out in the middle of nowhere, might as well try it! Hey, at least we found some other sites earlier, so if we don't find anything now, at least it's really beautiful out here! A short distance down the road, the boulders were getting bigger and bigger, and even my rental truck was scraping the ground. Hope we don't get stuck, because it would probably take a complete day or two to walk back. We decided to park. The scenery out there was fantastic-as far as you could see were rocky mountains with sparse, dying trees. We saw a little spring, but no cobra plants....I really had my doubts that this was the right place. As we scouted the area and looked at the landscape, my eyes fixated on some shrubs in the distance: Mike: "NO WAY!!! There they are, I see them right over there!!!" I wasn't 100% sure, but said it with such confidence. At this point, like a person in the desert looking for water, everything looked like a Darlingtonia to me. Rob: "Are we there yet? IF anyone can find them, you can!" Mike: "Let's roll down this dangerous rocky mountain...might end up acing ourselves, but hey, we'll probably make it" Rob: "Okay, you know me, let's do this! And by the way, are we there yet? Oh wait, I see them too, damn Mike, you weren't playin!" Mike: " holy S***, F*** ya Bro, who's yo Daddy? Word to yo mama, yo dada, Mother F... ya...... (and every other explicative you can think of used in an excited context) we found it!!!" Okay, so it didn't happen exactly like that, but I think you get the point-we were excited as can be :) We were standing on a dirt road that was "turning back to nature" (ie. shrubs and trees were growing in it from a lack of use) and we were looking into the distance, trying to see if there was anything there. Can you spot the darlingtonias? It was pretty lucky that we saw them from here because I was about ready to turn back: It was ridiculously beautiful out there: Notice how desolate the landscape is...the substrate here is almost pure rock. No wonder other plants can't grow here. I also believe there was a fire here quite a few years ago, which really cleared up the site (update: I just learned there was a massive fire here in 2002 that cleared out approx. 500,000 acres of forest. This used to have more vegetation): This site had multiple fens to the left and to the right. Here's just one of them, and it's massive! some seeps go for as far as the eye can see: When it opened up, they became these massive seeps: IT was so peaceful at this site...jaw-dropping plants everywhere, and the background scenery was breath-taking: Looking up the mountain: A log had fallen, holding up substrate and making an ideal habitat: Darlingtonia waterfall-nature is really creative: These plants were just perfect:
  5. The most outstanding, jaw dropping extreme red throated S. flava variants I've ever seen anywhere on this planet are from the Eastern Alabama population. We didn't get to see these plants in their prime, but you can tell based on these old pitchers that this is something extraordinary: the interior of the trap is bright red and the color extends up the lid a bit more than your regular rugelii normally does: I think this might be a different clone, but very similar idea: We also found some cut throat "leucophyllas": Hard to tell from this photo, but the lid on this one was slightly white: There were only 2-3 flavas clones in the entire population displaying this slight white top: Population size here was decent, there were a few patches like this: Some were rather gigantic: Pretty much every flava here had a beautiful red throat, although I didn't capture much of that: From left to right: Damon, Kate, and Axel amongst this beautiful patch of well-defined red throated rugeliis: A giant clone: and last but not least, a really giant yet funky looking trap:
  6. 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:
  7. Way high up in the mountains, far away from civilization, Rob Co of the Pitcher Plant Project and I decided to go on a crazy hike in what seemed like an endless mountain range. Reaching the site requires an hour and a half drive from the closest town and a 2 mile hike in some challenging steep terrain. On the way to the site, if you drive too fast or lose control, you'll fall off a sheer cliff, so there's no room for error out there. The roads aren't labeled out here, and getting there requires a little bit of trial and error plus some luck. Before I continue this story, let me add that hiking out in these mountain ranges require being in decent physical shape...this is no roadside botanizing! For the record, I look slightly fat but am buff underneath that, LOL Rob is quite physically fit (I'd hire him as a security guard any day), and he had a hard time going up and down these mountains (although to give him credit, he was slightly sick, so that's probably what slowed him down). Because of the high elevation (this was probably around 6,000 feet (1,830 meters) above sea level, the air is slightly thinner, which makes breathing more challenging. The dangers are also a lot higher than your average roadside site. For one, if you have an emergency, it's an hour and a half drive to the nearest form of civilization. Another challenge is the seep is about 2 miles away from where you can park the car. When we packed our backpacks, we had enough food and water to last around 4-5 days just in case. We also brought basic materials for survival (waterproof clothes, warm jackets, lighters, knives, bear spray, etc). Lastly, everything out there looks the same. When you try to find your way back to the car, it's extremely confusing and disorienting. Be sure to bring someone with a very good sense of direction if you decide to hike out in the wilderness like this. While there are trails out in this breath-taking scenery, the actual seep doesn't have any official trail to it. You essentially have to climb up a mountain top, look in the distance, and try to figure out how to get there without falling off the cliff. Here's Rob Co on the way to the site: The trails out here are extremely confusing because they aren't maintained whatsoever: Some of the trails are overgrown to the point that it's hard to tell it's still there: The scenery out there is absolutely breath-taking! Notice how many of the trees are pretty much dead-this was caused by a massive fire many years ago: Everywhere you look, there's jaw-dropping views like this. Interesting how some of the most beautiful places on this planet are quite hostile: What you can't tell is how steep this mountain is. It was very difficult figuring out how to get down to the fen, which is in the distance: Can you see the cobra pitchers in the distance? Probably not possible from this photo, but you could see it in person: We caught the last flush of some azaleas in bloom. The fragrance was sweet like candy-it smelled better than it looks! But who cares about all that, here's what we came to see, Darlingtonia by the thousands! This field was quite massive and absolutely impressive: In this photo, I'm standing uphill, and water is percolating downhill. The bogs were mainly composed of decomposing tree trunks, grasses, sticks, and a peat-like substance. It sort of bounced a bit when you walked on it: There were a few ponds at this site: And the Darlingtonia grew on the edges of these ponds. Keep in mind, water was constantly moving here: Just loved this unique habitat. Notice how there appears to be oil in the water: these are natural organic oils produced from decaying plant matter(probably from tree sap if I had to guess): Some of the plants are literally growing submerged. Slightly off topic, there were deep potholes at this site, and I fell into one because it was covered by the grass. I was up to my waist in water. At the bottom was thick mud that was hard to get out of, but I clearly survived: There were mainly "regular" color variants here, but check out the shape and dark red tongues on these traps: Hard to tell from this photo, but some were gigantic: My hand for scale: But there were also some amazing color variants here as well, like this copper topped one: Extensive windows and nice colors: Outstanding color variants. Notice the top of the head on the trap in the background is brown-this is from sun burn (heat stress):
  8. Sadly, it seems like S. leucophylla from Franklin County, FL is doing better in cultivation than in the wild. Granted, there are several populations we didn't see that are hopefully doing well, but of the ones we saw, they were in decline and had very few individuals. There were no signs of seedlings. The few individuals that we did see are in great health and had multiple growth points, but the low numbers of individuals compared to historic numbers indicates these sites are in danger. Much effort is being undertaken to restore some of these sites. Even though they may be in bad shape today, there's great hope in the future that they will be back to where they should be. Both habitats we saw were completely altered by humans, and one site was flooded earlier this year so the only plants that survived were the ones on the edge of the waterline or on islands that weren't fully submerged in water. For those of you who have grown S. leucophylla, many of the genotypes out there aren't very forgiving when it comes to flooding the roots: they tend to rot very easily. Running water isn't a problem nor are large pools of water, but when you have a stagnant drainage ditch with low oxygen levels, that's when rot kicks in. Here's the habitat for S. lecuophylla in Franklin Co, FL. This used to be a site planted with trees that was harvested. S. flava var. rugelii can be seen in this photo: There were probably more plants here, but we only found 2 or 3 clumps. Traps hadn't yet formed, so it was hard to spot them: We were a few weeks early: I did find one trap that was open, and you can tell there are some nice red genetics here: An old summer trap: At another site, we probably found maybe 15 plants total. This plant pictured below was found growing on the edge of a drainage ditch. The ditch was previous filled with water, but now it's so dry you can walk in it. Plants only grew on the sides of the ditch or on islands that weren't submerged under water for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this plant is now competing with the surrounding vegetation for light: On the other hand, some clumps here looked decently healthy: A closer look at a new pitcher opening: This clump had many new pitchers forming: Just opened: They are much more beautiful in cultivation. Here's S. leucophylla clone A x B (select clone) Franklin Co, FL, photo taken last year in 2013: Not a very exciting report, but we definitely learned a thing or two.
  9. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that one of the best S. flava var. rubricorpora populations in the world still exists today in Bay County, FL. Apparently, it does take a genius to explain to the State of Florida that destroying this remaining habitat and not having regulations to protect the remaining sites is beyond ridiculous, seeing how they've already demolished literally everything they possibly could. Bay County encompasses 1,033 sq miles (2,675 kmĀ²), and out of all of that land, maybe 10-20 acres of pristine habitat is left. Most of the remaining sites are relic patches of once vast fields of dreams. One can only imagine how many endless acres of fields filled with red flavas once existed. Everything that is left in the wild in Bay County is surrounded by altered terrain or is altered terrain. I visited a site in 2011 that was reported to have huge fields of Sarracenias and natural ponds containing giant floating S. psittacinas! Can you guess what this site looks like today? It looks like what 90% of Bay County looks like: endless rows of non-native pines grown for pulp production! No ponds, no savannas, no rare native plants, no sunshine, just thick, dark forests of planted trees as far as the eye can see. Unlike us CP enthusiasts, the majority of the general public sees nothing wrong with this: after all, they've "reforested America"! To add insult to injury, one of the last remaining sites is literally on it's last legs: the parcel right next to the red flava site, which is slightly uphill and is the water source for the delicate savanna, was recently harvested and cleared but fortunately, much of the soil was left undisturbed. Will they come in with tractors and till the soil to plant more trees? Will they dig ditches and destroy the water table? Keep in mind, many of these springs are extremely shallow. Even without laying a finger on the savanna, this site can be destroyed by altering the neighboring land. Well, the rest of the story has yet to be written, but there is hope that fields like these will keep going past our time. After all, this site still does exist as of 2014, and it's THRIVING! I'm grateful we live in a time when there's still pitcher plants in the wild, and it's a pleasure to share this with you all. Try to imagine the most amazing, giant, diverse red tubed plants you've ever seen, and that's what's here, in relatively large numbers. Also try to imagine 99F (37C) weather that felt like 110F (43C) and mosquitoes and other insects constantly biting you while you're drenched in sweat. Oh, and when you step on a little spot of dry land in the bog, it's infested with ants that bite with a painful sting (yes, I got bit!): When we visited, the field was very mucky and wet, so walking around was quite difficult. The insects trying to eat you alive wasn't any help either. Let me also mention that most other sites we visited in Florida this time of the year were bone dry and had a lot less biting insects! Every step, your foot goes down 2-3 ft (almost a meter deep). I ended up walking barefoot: I couldn't figure out if this site is being burned, but it didn't seem so. While the grasses were pretty thick in some areas, the field was so boggy and wet that not much else was colonizing the field. Anywhere else, this would be a thick forest within 2-3 years, things grow very fast in Florida: Each individual plant produced one or two pitchers, and not too many plants seemed to form clumps despite being well spaced and in full sun: Most of the plants here were red tubes, but some were extreme red throats. I didn't see any plants that resembled "pure" S. flava var. rugelii: Some more habitat shots: And now for some closer shots. Look at the character on these traps! Some of the lids stay yellow-green even after they age: Like this one too, and check out how big the lid is: Bright red body: Standard looking giant trap, hard to tell from the photo just how big these are: Some outstanding individuals: It's hard to capture the real color of these traps, but this picture is spot on. The light just happened to be perfect: One last look at the field as we exited. Wish I snapped more photos, but we were tired, hungry, bitten, dehydrated, and overheated, so it was time to go: After a long day of bogging, to relieve our bug bites and relax our bones, we went for a dip in the pool with some odd rules(item#7): Well, that's it for the story of the red tube site, hope you enjoyed it!
  10. 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!
  11. There are perhaps only a handful or two of large populations of S. leucophylla left in the wild. The majority that still remain are either relic patches of a once giant field of plants, or volunteers in modified habitats (ie. man made drainage ditches). Many of the historically giant populations are now either destroyed, or if they haven't been touched whatsoever, they are now etiolated plants growing in thick, dense forests. Before people dominated the landscape and plowed or altered every square acre of land, fires would come in and burn up the forest, creating new habitats for Sarracenias to colonize. Today, those forest are mainly homes, structures, and farms where fire isn't permitted since it would damage people's property. It's surprising how short lived many of these sites are, especially during the more recent times. On the other hand, they're still there, and they've struggled to survive the face of human negligence. This site below only exists because a power company consistently clears the grasses every year or so to protect their electrical equipment. On the side of the road nearby, I had already seen signs of round-up (herbicide) use, and it's only a matter of time when they spray this field. One application of herbicide can ruin centuries of growth. If I had to bet, this site will be sprayed in the next few years once they realize the cost savings. As pessimistic as it may seem, this is the reality for many of these sites. We visited many historic sites that didn't have a single plant left due to annual herbicide applications. However, there are some remote sites like the one below that still exist today, so maybe...just maybe a few will stand the test of time. Enough doom and gloom talk, let's check out these beautiful fields! Here are some S. leucophylla in Washington Co, AL, photos taken 9/11/13. First couple of photos focus on the field itself-there were 3 large patches at this site: Plants here were as healthy as can be! There's nothing like a huge field of leucophyllas: There were also S. rubra wherryi and S. psittacina (and some giant psitts!) at this site as well, but the grass was really tall, and you could only see the leucos. Still very inspiring to see a patch this size, which is still relatively small compared to what used to exist: thousands of plants everywhere: Tons and tons of plants: Poor Axel Bostrom of California Carnivores stepped on a fire ant hill at this site, and the pain was so extreme, he had to go wait in the car. These hills were hidden deep in the grass, and were EVERYWHERE: More photos of individual plants coming soon. This site had some amazing diversity which we will explore in a little bit, so stay tuned!
  12. During the fall, Darlingtonia californica (the cobra lily) can change colors from bright yellow to dark red, and mixtures in between. Sometimes, if stressed, the windows can change colors as well. In the wild, we found a few individuals that under normal conditions consistently produces red windows! We searched the site carefully and only found maybe 2-3 plants that displayed this unique characteristic. I visited this same site in 2010 (?) and at that time, we thought the red windows might just be an environmental thing. However, upon seeing the plants again in 2013, the same individuals had red windows, which suggest this is a genetic characteristic. Fortunately, this population is doing well in the wild, and these unique red windowed plants will likely persist in situ beyond our lifetime because they're very hard to find :) Photos taken 10/12/13: Look at how incredible these clones are! Interestingly, The red doesn't color up all the windows Notice plants in the background, under the exact same environmental conditions, do not produce red windows: Nature is absolutely fantastic! A different individual clone: If these plants didn't already look so alien, the red windows helps make them look even more bizzare: Side view: This one has a "moustache" like tongue:
  13. 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:
  14. The parrot pitcher plant grows in a lot of places, and their frequency in Sarracenia habitats are relatively high. With such high population numbers comes great genetic diversity, and in Washington Co, AL, there are certainly some unique and amazing looking individuals. This is the samne area where the giant "golfbalensis" parrot pitcher plant comes from, and no doubt, many of these were pretty big. Unfortunately, it seems like I didn't take too many photos of these awesome plants, probably because most of them were so hidden in the tall grasses (hindsight is 20/20!). Almost everywhere in these habitats, if you were to dig into the thick, tall grass, you'd surely find a few parrot pitcher plants in there. We probably didn't see even a fraction of what was out there, as they were hard to find. However, there were a few that were exposed in full sun. S. psittacina in situ, Washington Co, AL. Check out the dark red colors on this plant! These were growing in a "wash" where a stream or temporary flood cleared away shrubs and brush. Notice how the substrate is mainly this powdery, white sand with a little bit of organic matter: This isn't an example of thick grass...this is considered an "exposed" plant easily visible as you walk by: Plants in this area had dark red colors: My attempt to photograph a plant-these were definitely tough to capture: Check out the beautiful the white and red veins on this trap: This one was really neat-it was growing in some thick shrubs that probably used to be an open field many years ago: Same clone-the white on this one was intense! One last shot:
  15. While exploring Darlingtonias with my friend Rob Co, we found a site in Del Norte Co, CA that seems to be isolated from the rest of the populations that are normally found in the area. This is found at around 5,000 feet above sea-level, so I suppose it's considered a montane habitat. Fortunately, it hadn't snowed yet, so we lucked out and were able to see this site. In previous years, snow prevented us from being able to see the higher elevation plants. The site was extensive, and if I had to guess, there were probably more than 20,000 plants here. IT seems when they put in the road and drainage, it destroyed the fen that was downhill, but uphill, the fen was thriving! The artificial ditch became an ideal habitat for these plants as indicated by the dense population that covers it. There were 4 or 5 different seeps that all drained into the roadside ditch, and surprisingly, this location was relatively close to the top of the mountain. It faced the east side, so the plants are likely shaded in the late afternoon, which helps keep the site cool. All photos taken 10/11/13: "Hey Rob!" The moment he turned his head, click: These plants were densely populating the roadside ditch: An extensive population: every last square inch that could be colonized had a plant: One of the fens or seeps that fed into the roadside ditch: Another seep in the same area: more habitat shots: Water is constantly running from the hillside. Check out those plants hanging on the cliff! The old pitchers from previous years eventually becomes substrate: Closer shot: notice how they're growing on almost pure, alluvial rock: Densely packed: The plants at this site were "normal" in size...no giants like I've seen elsewhere, but they can vary in size from year to year. In other words, they still could get giant: Another habitat shot: And now for some close-ups-diversity was decent here: Some slightly red ones: Nice green bodies with a contrasting red tongue: Now, you may think, OMG, a very yellow clone! While we did find plants that were very yellow (and likely due to genetics), this one was water stressed and growing in a very dry area. Notice the damage on the pitcher from a lack of water perhaps a month or two ago: Still, it's quite incredible: One last shot: A nice clone:
  16. Before I write my own fieldtrip report on this site, I want to share with you all a fieldtrip report that I have from my files about this exact site. The notes dated all the way back to 1994 (I was in 7th grade at the time!), so when we decided to visit this site, I was a bit skeptical that there would be anything still alive, especially in light of what was seen back in 1994: "the bog was in much worse shape than it was when he was here last time. In the seepage areas of the Savannah flava typica, leucophylla, psittacina, tracyii, capillaris were found. I also found flava leuco hybrids. There were supposed to be pure red flava here, but [he] couldn't find them. Maybe they were dug up, who knows? We took photo and video. We stopped for a bite at a shleppy corner store. Got a good dinner for $3.99." Despite what was said about this site in 1994, there's good news: this bog is very healthy as of Sept. 2013, and the red flavas are still there! More on the red plants in another post...this report will focus on S. leucophylla. Notice the previous visitor mentioned "a seepage area." Again, this site is almost exactly like a Darlingtonia fen in the sense that the plants only grow within the seep, but you won't find a single plant outside of it. Think of these Florida "seeps" as a very slow moving creek, except it's pretty wide and filled with mucky peat. It's boggy and slushy when you walk through it. The seep is between two hills that have a gentle slope, and on each side of the hill is a savanna or grassland mixed with conifers This is another "hilly" site just like the ones in Okaloosa Co, FL, except the slopes are a lot more gentle here. These habitats are very different from the huge fields you see in Baldwin Co, AL, where the plants aren't in some mucky area, but rather grow in the middle of a flat field. Those habitats exist because there is ground water beneath them, so while the surface of the soil may seem relatively dry, there is plenty of water underneath (enough to support Crayfish!) Anyhow, check out this habitat! Photos were taken 9/10/13: It's hard to tell from the photo, but there is a gentle slope on both sides of this seep. Notice the plants in the middle: In the front of this area, there's an "oval" area where you can see leucos and flavas growing. This is the "top" of the bog, where water from uphill is slowly seeping into the wet areas. In the background, there's some thick, green shrubs-this turns into a "wanna-be" creek, where the bog continues to gently roll downhill. The boggy creek that continues gently down the slight hill is very thick with shrubs, but the Sarracenias grow in the middle of the creek: Another shot of the same spot: One more shot: The leucophyllas here were pretty white: Fresh pitcher opening up: some more bright white plants: As you can see, they're very healthy: Standard looking leuco: Beautiful plants-these are growing in the "creek" a bit downhill from the previous photos: Another shot:
  17. It was our last day on the trip, and everyone was completely tired of being dragged out into the fields to look at Sarracenias in the blazing sun and 100% humidity. After all, how many days in a row can you sweat from head to toe and not feel it take a toll on your body? In retrospect, we chose one of the best and worst times to visit the South: Best because the leucos/alatas were in their prime, and worst because it was hurricane season (took a gamble on that one, I hear a pretty bad storm is suppose to hit in the next day or two) and the heat/humidity was beyond hostile. You can definitely die in that weather without proper precautions! Anyhow, it's late afternoon, and we just checked into the hotel. Who wants to go hunting for Sarracenias? I got two long faces with the expression, "are you Effin kidding me?" Politely, Damon and Axel said they're going for a swim and hanging out at the hotel, so I told them I was going to be back in an hour. I think they also thought there wasn't much of a chance that we'd find plants...not after driving in the forest for 3 hours or so and finding two dinky little plants barely worth mentioning. What are the chances we'd find one here "in the city?" Turns out, chances were very high! Within a 4 minute drive, I found S. alatas, and they were absolutely stunning! Not some boring, green only alatas that are a dime a dozen, but a bunch of color forms, and even a veinless one! Enough story telling, on with the show! Photos were taken 9/13/13 in Harrison Co, MS: The veinless plant. AFter speaking with a fellow CP expert, this may be a significant find, as I hear there has only been one other location where a veinless alata was found: Hats off to this clone: Another shot: One last shot of this beautiful plant: Slightly fuzzy picture, but check out that color! some interesting orange/coppery colored plants too: Some habitat shots: nice red plants: diversity was really high at this site:
  18. This population of S. alata from Stone Co, MS is probably the largest, most dense population of Sarracenias on the planet! The bog stretches for as far as the eye can see, and the forestry service religiously burns this site every year (from what I could tell). I saw many tree stumps, which means they are removing trees to keep the forest from shading the meadow. When we visited this site, it was incredibly dry, and most of the fall pitchers were turning brown from water stress. The site was really dry...when I dug into the sandy substrate, it was barely moist. I saw a few pitchers wilting from the lack of water, but fortunately, it looks like it should rain in that area pretty soon. The good news is this site is the healthiest Sarracenia population I've ever seen. Everywhere you look, there are seedlings, which is a great measure for the health of any population of plants. Despite the water stress, this site will likely continue to thrive for a long time, especially in light of how the forestry service is managing them. Here's some photos: The largest trap I could find in the field was almost black and almost looked like a fish's face, haha: Side view of the same clone-this thing was BULBOUS: Some brand new fall traps-these will turn solid red when the temps. cool down in the late fall/early winter. If you see any red on the new traps, you know it's a dark clone: A nice clump: these plants were hard as hell to photograph with the full sun we were having. They're especially hard to photograph the darker they are. Notice the new traps are less red than the older traps: Another beautiful red clone: A nice ornate/veined clone: It smelled like dead animals in this field because there were so many traps filled with insects. Keep in mind I have a sensitive nose: This one will probably turn black: A beautiful, standard lemon-green clone with nice shape. You can see how many insects it's already caught, and this trap looked perhaps 2 weeks old: This trap was probably a bit older than the others, which is why it's so red: