Darlingtonia

This is going to be Darlingtonia (Darlingtonia californica) week. I love this unusual plant.

There are 3 genera and 17 species in the Pitcher Plant Family (Sarraceniaceae) found in North America. Of these 17 species only one is found in the West – Darlingtonia californica. Although I call this carnivorous plant Darlingtonia, it is also colloquially known as California pitcher plant, cobra lily and cobra plant. Darlingtonia is the sole member of its genus, named after the botanist William Darlington (1782 – 1863).

Darlingtonia is a perennial native found in Northern California and Oregon. There are also transplanted populations in Washington State near Seattle and in British Columbia. Darlingtonia grows in seepage areas, bogs and marshes up to 6,000 feet in elevation. Its habitat is often nutrient poor.

The California Native Plant Society considers Darlingtonia a rare plant because of its limited distribution. However, when one finds large colonies of Darlingtonia numbering in the hundreds or thousands of plants, it is difficult to believe the plant is rare.

Growing from rhizomes, Darlingtonia grows in clusters. The leaves are tubular, conspicuously veined and enlarge upward. At the top the leaf curls over and has two mustache-like appendages. This gives the leaf/plant a cobra-like appearance. The leaf varies from light green to pinkish or reddish purple.

The top and rear of the Darlingtonia hood has translucent spots. At the base of the hood is a hole. And the entire tubular leaf is hollow.

These specimens were photographed along Stony Creek Trail in the Smith River National Recreation Area and along Howland Hill Road in Redwood National State Parks, Del Norte County CA.

In my next post I will describe the carnivorous aspect of this most interesting plant.

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