Monday, December 2, 2013

Darlingtonia: A Horror Story in Sand and Serpentine

...the trail through the forest began innocently enough. Greenery was everywhere. The travelers were hungry, driven by a need for food, a need so bad they could smell it. They drove deeper into the dark shadows. They began to be aware of a pervasive odor, an odor that awakened memories of delicious feasts from the past. Something was out there in the dark shadows.

There was an opening. The splendid odor of food wafted from inside. They were so hungry, they were driven to see what was in the opening. There were some strange fibers about their feet, but the smell of food was overpowering their sense of caution. They crept further inside, becoming vaguely aware that the floor beneath their feet was becoming slippery. The entrance was now out of sight, but they didn't worry, they could see openings that would allow them to escape if necessary. They started sliding deeper into the cave, and they became alarmed. They decided they were in danger, and climbed towards the openings only finding to their increasing panic that they were transparent windows, not exits. They could not escape! Where was the opening? It was gone. 

A pool appeared below. A pool filled with the digested remains of previous travelers. The travelers realized their peril and tried to climb back up but downward pointed spikes prevented them from doing so. They struggled, exhausting themselves as they fell deeper into the abyss...
And such is the terrifying drama that was recommended to me by Lockwood when he found I was headed to Florence, Oregon for Thanksgiving. Of course the travelers were insects, not humans, and their terrifying trap was a Daringtonia californicus, also known as the Pitcher Plant or the Cobra Lily. The plant grows in northern California or southern Oregon, in two completely different environments: sandy coastal bogs and serpentine soils. In both environments nitrogen is limited and the plants get it by capturing and digesting insects.
They're looking at you...
The Darlingtonia Botanical Wayside is a small parkland of 18 acres about five miles north of Florence, Oregon in a bog formed in the hollows of coastal sand dunes that have been stabilized by the growth of a thick forest. It's a pleasant little stop, and given the nature of the plants in the bog, maybe free of mosquitoes? Maybe not at other times of the year...it was pretty cold the day we were there.
They're discussing you...
They have a flower that blooms during the spring, which I will need to check out. Here on the last day of November they were dying back for the winter, but plenty were still out and about.
They're all looking at you and sizing you up. Be scared. Be very scared...
The small section of forest in the park was also beautiful. I haven't been in the area enough to start recognizing the species just yet. Cedar or spruce?
If the Darlingtonia doesn't get you, maybe the tree trolls will instead...
 This is an area that I will need to explore some more!

4 comments:

Cathy Crandall said...

Just found your blog! We live just outside Portland but have visited Florence and the "scary" plants several times. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures (and the trees are cedars).

Hollis said...

Is the "splendid odor of food" noticeable? (to humans)

Garry Hayes said...

Thanks Cathy and welcome to Geotripper. I hope you enjoy it! Hollis, I certainly didn't notice anything, but the day was cold, and odors weren't obvious. I read somewhere that it doesn't have a particular good smell.

Lockwood said...

I've never noticed an odor, but many carnivorous plants do use either a floral or rotting meat odor to attract prey. Darlingtonia supposedly also exudes small patches of sweet nectar near the opening to persuade prey to come farther in.