Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Carnivorous Plants in Cranberry Glades

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!

ABC Wednesday

For more informaton on this area and these plants check out Trillium Travels here.


Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for the great photos and commentary on these carnivorous plants. We have very few genuine bogs where I live in upstate NY, so I have to travel some to find these plants and I'm always entranced when I do.

kate said...

VERY cool! I love these plants, I have a wet spot in the back corner of my garden and I've been considering putting in some pitcher plants. I saw them for sale recently. Maybe they'll eat mosquitos! bonus!

thanks for putting up these photos, fabulous post! Brings back memories or mucking around in Cape Cod bogs during my undergraduate thesis research. The Cape has billions of sundews, I just love them! -kate

Chip Gallo said...

I live in WV and didn't know that these carnivorous plants were native to the region. Thanks for the great pictures!


Regina said...


Q said...

Wonderful Cs!
I have a Venus Flytrap in my kitchen and she does an excellent job.
I enjoyed learning so much about the carnivorous pitcher plants.
Happy ABC Wednesday.
A cleaver and creative C post!

Roger Owen Green said...

more useful info; thanks

Joy said...

So beautiful, so deadly. Gorgeous photographs. I feel sorry for the insects, apart from the biting type who are usually nibbling on my arms and legs. Nature has an answer for everything.

Jay said...

They are indeed fascinating, but it's a good thing that insects do not have such a sophisticated nervous system as we do! Fifteen to sixty minutes to die! Ugh!

SquirrelQueen said...

A wonderful post and the photos are beautiful. I have heard of the pitcher plant but not the sundew, both are fascinating.

Thanks for sharing,

Tumblewords: said...

Great shots and commentary. My granddaughter's coworker has a pitcher plant on her desk! I think I might like one.

Janet Creamer Martin said...

Very nice post on th carnivorous plants. I really enjoyed it.

AndyG said...

I love sundew - reminds me of the time we visited Cranesville... The only other time I've seen it was on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. I'm always on the lookout for it though :-)

M.M.M. said...

Hi Squirrel,
This is unrelated to your post, but would you mind contacting me through email? I want your advice on a birthday present for a Virgo we both know. Thanks!