Recently I had the joy of photographing two very interesting carnivorous plants at Cranberry Glades Botanical Area in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. The area is located in the high Allegheny Mountains within the Monongahela National Forest -- I highly recommend a visit. (Be sure to click on the photos for a closer view, especially to see the insect on the Sundew.)
The first carnivorous plant I came to was the Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea venosa) a native perennial which may live up to 20-30 years. They have adapted to the acidic bog water with roots that now function mainly as support. The nutrients normally obtained from the soil come from insects, amphibians and snail prey. The red veined lip of the “pitcher” is apparently attractive to insects and guides them downward to fall into the rain water and a digestive enzyme. These enzymes, along with a community of bacteria living in the vase of the pitcher, slowing dissolves the victim so the nutrients can be absorbed by the plant’s cells.
There is no escape once inside. The fine hairs along the way are all pointing inward, like the spikes that pop up behind your tires when you leave some parking lots. There is just no backing up. No second thought about how good that nectar was on the way down.
The flower is solitary and rises one to two feet above the rhizome. It is suspected that this arrangement keeps the bee pollinators from falling victim to the vase below.
The other really cool carnivorous plant I captured in my camera was the Crosera, commonly known as the Sundew. They are perennial, most are small and some live up to 50 years. The species I saw at Cranberry Glades was Drosera rotundifolia, federally protected and classified as threatened or endangered in some states. I have also seen them at Cranesville Wetland and a few other high elevation bogs in West Virginia. They are so small they are easily over looked but when you do see their delicate glistening tentacles you are amazed. With a good imagination you can see a little fairy sitting next to one gossiping about last evening’s firefly party. They are just that magical.
Like the Pitcher Plant they rely on insects for nutrients. Their strategy is to trap insects with stalked glands that secrete sweet mucilage that both attract and ensnare their prey. Sort of a double whammy!
These sparkling red “dew” drops at the tips of the tentacles also digest the unsuspecting. I guess you might call them the “Dew Drop Inn” sign posts and like Hotel California they can “check out but they can never leave”. Death usually takes 15 to 60 minutes. (If you look closely you can see an insect in the photo below.)
Like Darwin, who studied these, I have found them fascinating and hope these photos and brief descriptions will encourage you to learn more about the Pitcher Plant and the Sundew, two carnivorous plants found in Cranberry Glades. Bon appetit!
For more informaton on this area and these plants check out Trillium Travels here.