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.

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.

On the Boardwalk

After our boat tour into the Okefenokee, we decided to walk the 0.75-mile boardwalk back to the observation tower.  Okefenokee is really not a swamp at all, but a massive peat bog, and along the boardwalk we saw plentiful Sphagnum moss as well as a few pitcher plants, which are carnivorous.  In a bog the soil tends to be acidic and nitrogen-poor, and carnivorous plants compensate for the lack of nutrients in the soil by trapping and digesting insects.

We looked for Pileated Woodpeckers, because my mother has never seen one, but though we heard them calling and saw the cavities they’d excavated in dead trees we never spotted one.

Finally we reached the tower…

…and at the top we found not a long-haired princess but a birdwatcher from Chicago on vacation with his family.  Like almost every birder I’ve met, he was eager to point out to us the birds he was looking at (and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there was no way that distant raptor could be a Snail Kite, as we were too far north).  He gave us a tip about where to look for Sandhill Cranes on our way back…

…and what a pair they were, with their magnificent lack of concern for the humans admiring them and photographing them and talking quietly.  Get a load of that yellow eye!

As we walked back, we could hear baby alligators chirping to their mama and Brown-headed Nuthatches calling their squeaky-toy calls in the pines overhead.  Not, overall, a bad way to spend a Sunday.