Captivating Darlingtonia

Darlingtonia Bog

Watch out bugs! Death traps ahead!

Plants that eat bugs. Just the thought of them and I am instantly transported back to third grade, when our teacher brought several carnivorous plants into our classroom. I’m not sure I ever saw one eat a bug because, of course, the third grade boys liked to poke the plants to make them close. Regardless, as a nine-year-old I was captivated.

While I may have been captivated, it took about 40 years before I finally saw my first carnivorous plant in the wild — the “Darlingtonia Californica” more commonly known as the pitcher plant or cobra lily — at the Darlingtonia Natural Area just north of Florence.

Darlingtonia Foggy Boardwalk

A foggy spring morning at Darlingtonia Natural Area.

When I think of Florence, I think of cool summers, fog, and lots of rain. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the pitcher plant also grows in the wild in southern Oregon, south of Grants Pass. We had the opportunity to visit the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside last year, on a hot, dry afternoon in late summer. The weather was very unlike anything you’ll find at Florence or along the Oregon coast.


Viewing platform at Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area.

Carnivorous plants attract insects and “eat” them because the areas they live in are so low in nutrients that the plants must get nourishment from other sources.

For the pitcher plant, the process is rather simple: the plants attract insects by small nectar glands around their “mouths.” Once the insects are tempted inside, they can’t find their way out and eventually slide down to the base of the plant where they drown in a pool of fluid. When the insect carcasses break down, the plant absorbs the nutrients that are released.


Pitcher Plant flowering.

If you’ve seen the pitcher plants growing in the wild at Florence, be sure to stop by Eight Dollar Mountain. The differences in environment makes this plant even more captivating.

Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside is 25 miles south of Grants Pass, off Highway 199 on Eight Dollar Road. There is a quarter mile boardwalk path leading out to the pitcher plants.

The Darlingtonia Wayside is just east of Highway 101, five miles north of Florence. The loop trail is about a quarter mile long.

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