Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meat Eating Plants!

Audrey II in the 2006–07 West End productionImage via Wikipedia
Remember those horror movies where meat-eating plants come from outer space and devour men whole? Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors insatiable desire for blood? The Triffids strangling blinded humans and they sucked the life out of them? Well, they are real and they are in Oregon...sort of...kind of...well, not really. 

Well, let me explain...

Southern Oregon contains many unique forms of rare and valuable flora special to the Northwest. No, not the wacky grass that they like to grow in Cave Junction and Takilma but, unique species of pitcher plants indigenous to this region of the Oregon Coast Range, but a unique plant known as Darlingtonia californica, aka, the California pitcher plant...or by the even more metal name Cobra Lily.

Near Florence, on the Oregon Coast, a fairly large peat bog supports the unique conditions that host this plant. However just outside of Cave Junction you can find a few isolated patches of this plant. 

The plants' hooded funnel shape forms a trap that catches insects. With the insects trapped, enzymes secreted by the plant digest the captured insects allowing the plant to absorb much need nutrients absent from the bogs in which they grow. While the trapping mechanism varies between difference carnivorous plants, the same biological principals apply, when nutrients are absent from the soil, obtain them from other sources.

These pictures are of the bog of pitcher plants. The whole area in which they grow is probably about the size of a baseball diamond of sloggy earth. 

While considerably less glamorous than the sundew or the venus-fly trap, it is still a unique plant. A quick aside on the venus fly trap, if you hadn't put two and two together, the name of this plant is quite misogynistic in nature, as the "Venus" refers to the vulvar nature of the trapping mechanism. The Darlingtonia is still fondly appreciated by those in Oregon. It's a strange plant...what else is there to say?

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