The Carnivorous Plant FAQ Field Trip Report -

Sarracenia alata with a lagniappe, 2005

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Roadside botany:
We were visiting friends, and between our orchestrated activities with them we found we had a few hours to burn. In this heavily populated Gulf Coast of Mississippi, carnivorous plants still thrive on the roadsides of the major highways. Unfortunately, so do the realty signs and construction business. The everly diminishing wooded lots are bulldozed and transformed into shops, car-washes, and fastfood joints. Even after the bulldozers finish their terratransformations, carnivorous plants may persist among the landscaping shrubs and in the turf grasses. But even these are wiped out by the first person to apply fertilizers or herbicides. So while I clicked waypoints into my GPS as we explored, I knew I was only recording ghost sites that were destined to be destroyed within a few years.

The highway passing through Ocean Springs is flanked by closely-mowed shoulders. The land beyond the shoulders is either developed property (and therefore, botanically useless), or wooded lots with many interesting plants. Small carnivorous plants such as sundews persist in the mow strips, and bigger plants like Sarracenia grow at the edges of the mow strip. Carnivorous plants cannot survive beyond the mow strip because the woody vegetation is no longer burned. The owners of the land are not interested in maintaining the land in any biologically valuable state--they are only keeping the lots fallow for a few years until they can be sold for development.

Exploring the mowstrips was certainly not going to be a wilderness adventure for us; cars and trucks were blustering by close and noisily. It was like botanizing next to a herd of migrating wildebeasts. Still, there were plants and things worth seeing; fragments of ecosystems desperately trying to find a place to survive.

Beth and I stopped at a site that looked promising. It had Sarracenia alata flowers, a bit of open water, and a safe place to park the car well off the road. Right away we found this nice little sundew growing at the edge of a waterfilled rut. (It was, alas, near another realty sign.) Short petioles, prostrate habit, round petioles--there's really no arguing the Drosera capillaris identification. The stipules (a central, scale-like stipule with a multifid tip, and a pair of long, narrow stipules flanking it) provided further verification of the ID.

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Revised: October 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005