Field Trip

From: Paul Temple (
Date: Thu Jul 01 1999 - 13:54:06 PDT

Date: Thu, 01 Jul 1999 20:54:06 +0000
From: Paul Temple <>
Message-Id: <aabcdefg2431$foo@default>
Subject: Field Trip

Two things before the Field Trip stuff. For many people a trip to see CP
in the USA may seem mundane - after all, so many of you live there and
can just walk outside and see the stuff. But I'm assuming many others
are not so used to this. And in any case, perhaps those of you there in
the USA appreciate it when we "foreigners" show we appreciate your
country. Second, this email is not for the eyes of those whose name
starts with "Fernando"!!!

OK - so as precicted, I got to New York New York (so good they named it
twice - hmmmmm?) and paused only to visit thousands of newly acquired
family (marriage won me a 1500% expansion in family) and the Brooklyn
Botanic Gardens. This had the normal not very impressive show of fairly
average not very well grown CP's that result in the public being
unispired by CPs in general. Back in my accommodation, I was pleased to
be in contact with BoB McMorris and we agreed that I would drop in on
him in Florida. As delightful as his wife and family, house, food and
swimming pool are, we quickly agreed to forsake all these things and
trek up to the Florida Panhandle - my first visit there. Now lots of
plants seemed potentially of interest but bear in mind I had never sen
US Pings in the wild other than P. lutea. It took 4 hours to get into
the right area but eventually we got there. We went straight to a site
that Bob new, and he couldn't resist teasing me by knowingly remaining
silent as he drew level and began to pass the first field. I remember
being totally astounded by what I saw. Certainly brits, and I guess
most not from the USA, are used to seeing a few Sarracenia at a time,
maybe 10 or even 20. In front of me was a field of grass containing
countless hundreds or even thousands of them. It was superb. No little
rossetted things that you had to hunt for and identify with a key!).
Here as a seemingly endless vista of plants taller than grass that
demanded attention as they glowed in the sun.

And we passed straight by! OK. There was method in our madness. Bob
had talked to locals on a previous trip and then to a friend (CPer) and
more plants grew further down the road, so we drove on to see where.
With my eye now tuned, I saw them in the scrub as we drove on and we
stopped. Again, there was field on field of them. Side-tracking from
the trip for a moment - some of us are old enough to remember that the
CP hobby existed for 10's of years when all you could really get was the
standard Sarracenia flava, a beautiful yellow-green plant with a red
blotch on the inner throat and few if any other markings* (see the
classic photo on P32 of Adrian Slack's "Carnivorous Plants"). Although
CPN gradually introduced us to the existance of All Red forms and others
with varying degrees of redness, these always were and even today remain
rare-ish in collections. So, returning to my existance in the field, I
was amazed to see that flava forms with red colouration were not at all
rare. Here were fields (plural) containing thousands of plants varying
from yellow-green to heavily veined to all red. Why had they ever and
why are they still rare (in collections)? Bob couldn't fail to notice
my fascination with the red plants and video captured the moment.

The initial shock of seeing the plants created a scene that somewhat
resembes classic cinema. Blinded by the experience, I spent the first
few moments rushing headlong into the field almost aimlessly ( - it
reminds me now of that cinema scene where two lovers rush at each other,
one from left of screen and the other from right of screen, only to miss
and pass each other by in their excitement). So, I now started looking
at the plants, as had Bob already. There in the long grass were other
hidden treasures. S. purpurea was first to be found, hard to see, fully
overgrown by grass but there in reasonably large numbers, certainly
hundreds. Then there were smaller but still significant numbers of S.
psittacina. Also obvious were hybrids but these covered a wide variety
of crosses and back-crosses and I had no intention of trying to
interpret what they were - I simply admired them. As we covered more
ground, we found more colour variants. In addition to the already
mentioned all red flavas, two other plants particularly caught my eye.
First, there was a plant that had to be S. x catesbaei (S. flava x S.
purpurea) or any additional influence through back-crossing was
minimal. The semi-recumbant plant displayed a flamboyantly wide flared
semi-erect hood. Too my eyes (and I think Bob agreed) the whole plant
was almost orange in colour and was certainly certainly a beauty. Then
there was a S. psittacina which appeared to be a dark red, almost
mahogany. My experience of these was limited to plants that were far
less red so this counted as yet another beauty.

Now, bearing in mind that I live in England where a site may marvel in
one or two CP species, so far the count as 3 Sarracenia species plus one
obvious hybid (and many other complex hybrids), all at a single site.
But then I left the field for a well deserved rest at the car - or so I
thought. A ditch beckoned. It was barely 1 foot (1/3 metre) below the
general ground level but it looked interesting and was barely a 30
second walk away. So I walked over to find a carpet of the red-brown
leaved Pinguicula planifolia. They varied in size from seedlings to
those the size of an adult's hand. The ground here was certainly wet
but not as wet as books suggested - the plants were not in water-logged
soil. But I suppose the fact that they were in a ditch and that they
occurred no-where else close by did show theyrequire more water than
Sarracenia. Of course, dotted amoungst the planifolias were small red
rosetted things, some kind of Drosera!

With a count of 5 signoificant discoveries and plently of colour forms,
we drove on. Returning to the original field we first passed we now
chose to stop and visit it. Only the weather didn't agree and it now
reminded us that Sarracenias also like water. It rained. It poured.
It teased us by relenting only to pour again. After 30 minutes it
stopped. And we walked. Again there were countless Sarracenia and
again, in just one location which again was a ditch, there was a single
patch of Pinguicula. Oh. I forgot, both at the previous site and now
here we also saw plenty of Drosera filiformis subsp. traceyi. Now this
is a Drosera I can like, visible without a hand lens, different enough
to identify on site. Wonderful. In the field, the Sarracenia were of
the same species as earlier, though we now found orange coloured S.
purpureas. The red flavas were abundant too, and at a distance
reflected sunlight so as to appear white capped (but weren't).

Leaving the field I must have resembled Swamp Thing. Everything
squelched and those parts of my clothes that hadn't been soaked were
finally drenched by a final bout of rain timed to catch us in the middle
of the field.

A final note on this field and the previous one. Almost none of the
Saraas had any sign of old flower spikes so something in this year's
weather clearly interfered with flowering. OK - so I guess El Nino will
be blamed. But for how many more years will we get away with blaming El

On to another site, say a 20-30 minute drive. Here we viewed what
appeared to be a whole field of red tube flavas but, we'd seen so many,
we moved on. At yet another site we stopped and walked to the edge of
an open field of grass. This grass was short, new growth following a
fire. Plenty of Sarracenia were easily seen. At the edge of the field,
where the trees grew, Bob's eagle eyes were first to find P.
planifolia. Then he found P. ionantha, the large all green Pinguicula.
Clearly these were in full sun but where tree cover may have protected
the soil from drying out too quickly - no Ping plants grew far from the
edge of the tree cover.

Although we loked at other sites the most noteable was a bog that is
well known to CPers from the local area. This was a small area
containing one or twoo small pools of standing water, surrounded by lush
green sphagnum. At some point someone has introduced Dionaea into the
area and I have never seen such a fantastic group as those we found.
For as far as we walked there was lush green spagnum over sandy soil and
everywhere there was sphagnum, there were Dionae plants. These varied
from all green large plants to small plants with cherry red inner traps;
the cherry colour showed as a single stripe on the outside edge of each
trap. If Dionaea are threatened in the Carolinas (as they are), then
surely the thousands of plants here show that Dionaea can flourish and
be saved outside it's own natural original habitat. Closer inspection
revealed the pool to contain at least one Utric. Much as I love them,
the challenge of identifying it without a key meant I didn't!
Meanwhile, I haven't mentioned that alongside the Dionaea, but in the
wetter spots bedide the pools, we saw S. leucophylla. This was simply
the standard plant, no variant, but no less beautiful for that.

Time was running out. We'd been on-site for nearly 4 hours so we had to
turn back or face the wives! But Bob insisted there would be more. As
we drove back the land got drier and drier and I relaxed knowing we
couldn't be in Sarracenia territory. Screech of brakes. Slamming of
door. "Come here" yells Bob. Sure enough, between the short grass by
the road and the thick tree cover beside it, there were Sarracenia minor
plants. Not many, but I would never have dreamed they would like land
as dry as it was, yet they looked perfectly healthy (except for chunks
eaten by moths).

And so we drove back with the plants seen in a single day (4 hours) of
about S. purpurea, S. flava (including red colour variants), S.
psittacina, S. leucophylla S. rubra, S. x catesbaei , multiple
Sarracenia complex hybrids, Dionaea, Drosera filiformis subsp. traceyi,
P. ionantha, P. planifolia, one identified fixed aquatic Utricularia and
a red rosetted Drosera thingy!

That was all until we were 30 minutes from Bob's home and made that
fateful call to tell the wives we were minutes away. Then we saw the
lake. So we stopped sure that the sheet of yellow flowers signified the
presence of U. cornuta. It did, and we would have spevt seconds
admiring it if it hadn't been for the purple surprise. We were walking
on U. resupinata we think, but ppretty and abundant whatever it was.
I'm sure others were there too, one rarely finds one or two Utrics
without moe being nearby, but no others were flowering.

Somewhat delayed we returned. Wives were very accepting of our
tardiness, aided by my having bribed my wife with spending money for the
day - all of which she spent!

Apart from another earlier visit near Bob's house and to a Nursery, this
ended my field trip. But I can only be amazed by the sheer abundance of
the CP's and the variety of genera, species, hybrids and forms. One
last thought for this visit - I did not yet say that the Florida
panhandle is home to Deer Flies and Chiggers. Deer Flies are large
brown things that take an enormous chunk of flesh from anything warm in
the hope of lapping up the resultant blood. They hurt! At last one
video recording is mostly rined as I go into a frenzy while defending
myself from just one such fly! Then there are Chiggers. I know about
Chiggers. I knew about chiggers. I wore jeans and socks to defend
against Chiggers. They didn't. Chiggers are low in intellect which is
why they are not the dominant life form on this planet. They look for a
warm home (don't we all). Unfortunately they are indiscriminate and
willingly permanently dig into warm flesh that is not suitable to their
food needs, so dying of starvation. Until they die, they itch like
hell. I itched like hell. Bob laughed. Thank you Bob!

Returning to NY NY I then got the chance to meet someone you know by
email as Sundew Sundew, or Matt. Now, lovers of Sundews (clearly Matt
being one) will know that I am rarely complimentary about them! But
Matt has a collection and we've been email pals for ages so I welcomed a
chance to meet him. And so I saw my first ever Sundew collection. Not
a CP collection (there were a few other plants but Matt specialises),
really just Sundews. All next to each other (where they could be
compared) and beautifully cared for. And, because I know Fernanado
isn't reading this, I can FOR THIS ONE TIME ONLY admit that they were
gorgeous and I loved them. Yes, even the small rostted thingies which
now looked different from one another. It helped that, if memory serves
me, not a single plant was a D. spatulata nor a D. capillaris! It
helped more to see some beautiful Australian and Brazilian plants.

I now find myself embarrased by the fact that I actually returned home
and created space for Droseras by crowding my Pings together. How
embarassing - although a lttle less so because I know I can trust you
all not to tell Fernando!

So there I am - a changed man, still collecting Pings but forced to
admire and collect small red not always rosetted things. Still, my
field trip proved to be far more rewarding than could have been hoped
for. Once again I can only recommend to those who have yet to try that
a field trip is always likely to be a worthwhile and unforgettable
experience. USA is not a wilderness such as the Dominican Republic or
parts of Brazil so it simply shows that even a field trip to a well
deveoped area can be a superb experience. And email friends can be seen
too. So go on, plan a trip for the future even if it waits a few years
to happen.


Paul (Previously host to numerous now dead Chiggers)

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