The Carnivorous Plant FAQ Field Trip Report -

The Whisperers in the Boglands

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Railroad site
My last meeting ended at noon, so I changed from office wear into bogging clothes and parked my car at a gas station near Storrs, Connecticut. This station was supposedly the best parking place for a carnivorous plant site that I learned about from buddy Les Mehrhoff. The esteemed Dr. Mehrhoff assured me that after a quick hustle down the slope behind the gas station and a ten-minute stump along some active railroad tracks, I would find a nice sphagnous bog with Sarracenia.

Unfortunately, as I started down the slope, I encountered a menage a trois of a property line and two stiff-legged, growling rottweiler-hybrids that convinced me to retreat upslope.

Plan B consisted of parking about 0.5km away and walking along the railroad tracks to the site. Les advised me against this but it was my only remaining option. I drove to the new location and parked. Seeing no curious police officers that might disagree with my intentions, I proceeded with my machinations. With my camera bag slung over my shoulder and my hands occupied with a tripod and my 4-liter aquarium (for photographing aquatics), I darted through a gap I found in the fence along the railroad tracks and scurried out of view.

(I claim ignorance of any laws I might have violated having done this, although I know this is not a tenable defense.)

The banks of the railroad consisted, as usual, of sharp gravel pile, so walking was most easily done on the tracks themselves. This was an active set of tracks, and I was a little sluggish with my gear, so I nervously counted steps and glanced behind me every 20th. My most memorable obstacle on this leg of the trip was when the tracks passed underneath a multilane interstate highway. It was bad enough that the tunnel was fairly narrow, but even worse was that the tunnel had a curve so I could not see the opening on the other end. I considered my options, and decided that risking the tunnel was probably safer (and less conspicuous) than shambling across the lanes of traffic above. So I tightened my shoulder strap, looked behind me one last time, then trotted into the tunnel.

Run run run. Run run run. Run run run.

Fortunately, I made it through the tunnel before any trains came, as you can guess because I am still here to write about the event.

After another ten minutes along the railway (interrupted by the discovery of Utricularia macrorhiza in an adjacent pond), I started seeing Sphagnum growing in the wet mucky interstices between the shrubby vegetation. I pushed my way through this undergrowth (some slight cursing occurred), and came upon the inevitable open-water lag encircling the bog itself. This posed a challenge that required the usual combination of risk, stupidity, and guesswork to cross. But luck was with me and I crossed it with only wet ankles to complain about.

The bog consisted of a comparatively open area occupied by neck-high ericacious shrubs. Animal paths and other natural passages created a matrix of openings among the shrubberies, and Sphagnum blanketed the ground throughout. The only carnivorous plant species I found was Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea, although I am confident that coming at a different season would reveal Drosera rotundifolia and perhaps Drosera intermedia, and a thorough search of the lag might turn up Utricularia. The Sarracenia that I found were not particularly spectacular, and frankly I was more interested in Utricularia on this trip, so I only took a few photographs such as this one before returning to the hazards of the railroad.

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Revised: October 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005