Sundew Almost in Bloom

I feel like I post about carnivorous bog plants a lot, but I will never get tired of them, they’re so cool! And this is something new – the sundew here has put up flowering stalks and is about to bloom. These photos were taken at the same spot as the spider eating the dragonfly earlier this week. The first one is the basal rosette of the sundew plant with its insect-digesting leaves, and you can see the bases of the brown flowering stalks growing out of the center. The second one is the same plant, with the flower buds at the ends of the stalks in focus.

If I make it back at the right time to catch the flowers when they’re open, I’ll be sure to post those photos too! In the meantime, here are some bonus photos of pitcher plants, just because they’re so pretty.

More Bog Life!

After our jaunt through a black ash swamp, the North Woods Native Plant Society group moved down the road a little ways to walk out into a bog – a very wet, squishy walk. You all know how I love bogs. Here’s a sample of what we saw.

At the center of the bog was a small open lake. I described how this happens last week.
Wild cranberry in bloom
Sundew, a tiny carnivorous plant. Look closely – this one has a couple insects it’s digesting.
Frosted Whiteface, a boreal, bog-loving dragonfly. I practically fell into the lake while trying to get this photo.

Totally, totally worth getting my boots and socks soaked through!

Sundew

Interesting though they are (see the downward-facing hairs, to keep insects from crawling out and escaping?), the pitchers aren’t the only carnivorous plant in our bog. To spot the other one, though, you’ll practically have to rub your nose against the sphagnum.

This is sundew, its odd, round leaves surrounded by sticky-tipped hairs. (The fact that the sticky glands look like water droplets gives the plant its name.) The secretions are sweet and tempting, but when an insect makes the mistake of landing here, it’s trapped and the leaf curls around it and digests it.

I’ve never witnessed this plant eat. Maybe sometime I’ll catch an insect to feed to it. It would have to be a very small insect, though.

Because I promise I have a normal-sized thumb, and as you can see, this is a very, very small plant.

Bog Beauty

One of the delights of the Northwoods (that’s how they spell it sometimes, here, with no space) is the abundance of bogs. The forest will suddenly open to a flat area sparsely wooded with spruce and tamarack, with shrubs such as leatherleaf and bog rosemary beneath them.

Instead of soil and leaf litter, you’ll find a spongy, wet green carpet of sphagnum moss.

And if you’re lucky… perhaps a decidedly odd-looking flower.

Recognize it? This is the flower of a pitcher plant, which has a adapted to the nutrient-poor conditions of the bog by catching and digesting insects in its water-holding leaves. Bogs form where the water is acidic, which hinders decomposition, meaning when plants die the nutrients their bodies contain are very slow to be recycled back into the system.

The patch of pitcher plants that produced this flower was in pretty sorry shape.

If I’d ventured further into the squishy sphagnum, I could have found some nicer-looking ones, I’m sure. Perhaps another day.