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For Sarracenia - to the USA
Vlastik Rybka (1997)
Across the crazy beach complex at Myrtle Beach, which can be recommended only for intensely established admirers of civilization or masochists, we arrived in the state of North Carolina and stayed overnight in a camp near the well-known Green Swamp. High concentrations of gnats made it impossible to breathe without unpleasant sensations. However, our morning visit to the swamp was compensation for our discomfort. I had already visited this locality in 1992, and was pleased to visit this place again. We found Drosera capillaris, D. brevifolia, Dionaea muscipula, S. rubra ssp. rubra, S. flava, S. purpurea ssp. venosa and U. juncea. We were surprised by the venus flytrap. It grows hidden in grassy vegetation, forcing us to carefully search the grass to find it. A few nice specimens were found growing on almost bare pine needles lightly shaded by trees. This suggested to us that the venus flytrap is a comparatively shade-loving plant. Colouration in this population was variable. We frequently found plants with slightly pink traps, rarely were they all green or yellowish. The diameter of the plants ranged from 3 to 6 cm, with a maximum of 8 cm. S. flava in the area was fairly robust. The pitchers were tall at about 60-70 cm, with a maximum of 83 cm. The hue of the pitchers was yellow with a bronze tinge especially on the lid. The plants had a red splotch and a high degree of venation. S. purpurea ssp. venosa grew individually, hidden in the grass with only the tall fruiting stalks betraying their hiding spots. The plants were variable in colour, from all green with weak venation to all red plants. S. rubra ssp. rubra was common as well and was found growing in clusters in the wettest places. The pitchers were on average 24 cm tall with maximum heights of 34 cm. We also found a few S. x catesbaei and a single S. x chelsonii specimen. We explored several nearby nice localities, but did not find better plants. However, we were surprised at the range of water-filled areas. I noticed another interesting thing shocking to a Czech; in all of North Carolina, the sale of beer and other alcohol is banned on Sunday.
The next day we arrived at locality where a lot of bladderworts were growing--White Lake--from which comes the recently described U. floridiana. We stuck with Taylor's monograph in describing members of the genus Utricularia. We were lucky to find several species of plants on the edges of the nice, but heavily used, lake. Bladderworts also grow somewhere in the deeper parts in the middle of the lake. U. floridiana is a very interesting species, at first often found in areas mixed with U. striata. However, U. floridiana differs from U. striata in that if also grows in deeper water, clinging to the substrate with etiolated sprouts.
Near the lake we saw the first signs of the recent hurricane. We decided to swim in the Atlantic Ocean so we could see the destruction in Surf City. The houses that were damaged the most stood on the first dune; a very attractive location with a view of the ocean but also a high risk of destruction due to the frequent hurricanes. We then traveled to the Croatan National Forest, and we looked extensively for CP sites. While the location was suitable for CPs, we did not find any
On the twelfth day of our journey we finally bought a cooker so that we could enjoy a warm meal. It was a petrol cooker from the US Army shop. We almost made a contribution to the fire management of Sarracenia localities! While we now had a gas cooker, there was no fuel available for this one in the U.S. This was the only major failure of our planning during our journey.
We toured the botanical garden in Chapel Hill where our guide was Rob Gardner, well known to CPN readers. We enjoyed a tour of a complete collection of Sarracenia species, including hybrids. We searched for different subspecies of S. rubra, the pretty hybrid S. leucophylla x S. flava, and a quite red form of the venus flytrap (´Akai Ryu´). The condition of the garden and of rescue programs did not leave us with a good impression. Next, we traveled north towards Virginia, where we stayed overnight in hopes of seeing one of the northernmost localities of S. flava. However, this was without success, which is too bad as the plants from Virginia could be hardy under our climate conditions. We went step by step from Richmond to Washington and Baltimore in order to go across the Chesapeake Bay and the state of Maryland to the second smallest state in the U.S.- Delaware. We spent half an hour there, most of it in Wilmington. At last, we crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey. The countryside had a lot of attractive ambience known in Europe but scarce in America. We stayed overnight in the Warton State Forest, and early in the morning we went to Batsto to get some advice as to where the best places in the Pine Barrens were. Batsto is an open-air museum of old houses. We got a tip near Batsto to go to Mullica River. We were very satisfied with it. First I would like to say a few words describing this unique formation. The Pine Barrens spreads around the east coast of the U.S. from the states of Massachusetts, being especially well developed in Cape Cod, to Connecticut, New York, and finally New Jersey, where the Pine Barrens are in their prime. The soil base is nutrient-poor and sandy, enabling the growth of only a few species of trees and shrubs adapted to these conditions. These include the pine Pinus rigida, the oak Quercus marilandica, and a lot of prickly shrubs from the genus Smilax. All of the formations have rather low growth, with few overgrown areas. Other wart-worts often grow here. The Pine Barrens are typically peaty marshland at lower localities. It was just these localities which were very interesting for us to explore.
Basal vegetation consists of Sphagnum and plants from the sedge family. Marshland is very commonly associated with the incidence of CP's. The queens are Sarracenia of course - here S. purpurea. The Pine Barrens represent an overlapping range between subspecies purpurea and subspecies venosa. We often found them in the shade of low-growing shrubs. We also observed three sundews there. We got a kick out of the first observations of D. filiformis ssp. filiformis. Of all of the North American sundews, this species grows on the driest places, usually slightly moist and out of regular floods, often on naked sand in small clearings among the pines. The plants are relatively minute, with about five leaves and an average height from 13 to 16 cm, up to a maximum of 19 cm. However, they are very fertile. For the first time on the American continent we found the well known D. rotundifolia. The plants were infrequent scattered around, similar to populations found in Europe. D. intermedia was typically found growing almost in the water. The plants were hefty with rosettes from 7 to 9 cm in diameter. Some bladderworts were also present. Large numbers of an unidentified bladderwort (U. cornuta or U. juncea) were found in the area. U. subulata, a very nice plant, was frequently found too. A few plants of U. gibba were found growing in shallow water. Besides CP's, we also found a marvelous minute fern; Schizea pusilla. Its assimilative leaves have a simple narrow shape, and the leaves with fern spores are branched like the antenna of a chafer. This species grows only in the Pine Barrens. In the afternoon we tried to find the interesting Ancora Bogs, but could not find an access. So, we visited a farm producing turf, the insane asylum, and the railway track instead!
The next day we explored the Pine Barrens further. We arrived in the Bass River State Forest. We asked about Sarracenia at the ranger station, and they recommended a return visit to Mullica River. We passed near Absegami Lake, and found a lot of Sarracenia only a few tens of meters from the station from which we had originally traveled far away. There are many Sarracenia on the sandy shore of the lake, nicely coloured, but we also found the plants deep among the shrubs with only green phyllodia. Marshland at the edge of the lake was marvelous, but dangerously deep too. We jumped over the islets, but when the islets started to overturn, our movements looked like a poor comedy. We then decided to make our retreat.
That was a great experience, and Lake Absegami remains unforgettable to us. We visited Lebanon State Forest towards the evening where a lot of Sarracenia could be seen around Pakim Pond, most of which had fruits. D. filiformis was common as well. We left the beautiful Pine Barrens with an all-night trip waiting us, to see Don Schnell at Pulaski in Virginia in the morning. The 3000th mile also marked the northernmost point of our journey. We chose a motorway from among the roads southward though it led northward for a short distance. Our northernmost point lay on Interstate 80 on the border of New York and Pennsylvania. In the state where I had spent three months in 1992, I spent only three hours now. We met Don Schnell primarily thanks to Zdeněk Žácek; who made an appointment for us before our journey. It was a magnificent experience to chat with such an expert on American CP's and to look at the plants in his greenhouse. We paid close attention to the Sarracenia of course. In the case of S. rubra we agreed on the fact that the fluent conversions occurred among the individual subspecies originally, but now, thanks to great isolation and rarity of localities, the diversity is more apparent. Don Schnell has a marvelous collection of S. purpurea with a beautiful, giant variety of burkii from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, pretty plants of f. heterophylla, and an interesting form from the mountains of North Carolina which will be described by Don Schnell as a special form or subspecies (montana). It is very venous but different from ssp. venosa. Also he had a green-white form of S. psittacina without noticeable red pigment. Flowering Heliamphora heterodoxa and a collection of Pinguicula from the North American Southeast were nice as well. We made efforts to identify them in a vegetative stage, but this requires more time and training. Don Schnell gave us many valuable reprints and also a valuable copy of the book "Carnivorous Plants of USA and Canada." Besides all of this, we also received a lot of good tips on interesting sites for the rest of our journey.
It was raining when we left and rather unpleasant. We were looking forward to the famous Skyline Drive leading along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Beautifully coloured leaves characterize the fall season (including September and October), and during nice weather it is a beautiful experience to ride on the Skyline. Unfortunately the sky was too low to the road, so we spent most of our journey with the windshield wipers running at top speed, making the drive a continual stress. We arrived in Asheville, but we could not find a suitable campsite, the countryside being too dense. We had to stay overnight in the car.
The next day was dedicated to looking for localities of S. rubra ssp. jonesii at Etowah. We drove many miles, asked many people, farmers, and policemen. We knew the name of a farm where it had been found, and tried calling all the farmers with this name. Unfortunately, the rarest Sarracenia remained inaccessible. We cheered up though since this gave us a reason to come back. I must say, we were not astonished at the rarity of this Sarracenia, because the countryside was used intensively. There are a lot golf courses and houses. We left North Carolina and entered South Carolina. We were lucky in that we found a beautiful State Park named James Gap with showers and picnic places, so that we could refresh ourselves. Then we visit the next State Park--Caesars Head--and asked about Sarracenia. A lady said that Sarracenia were growing there, but were not visible in autumn. We assured her to the contrary, but then ran into reluctance to reveal a locality. We added the fact that we had found in the literature the existence of one species from two recent South Carolina localities near this park.
We returned embittered to North Carolina and stayed overnight at the Pisagh National Forest. Looking for a good place to camp forced us to climb to 1,600 m. We were afraid of a cold night, but instead spent a nice night in the montane forest around a brook. Compared with the car, it was balmy.
On the eighteenth day we began the 4000th mile of our trip by driving roads on the Skyline again. The weather was better, so we had some nice views. We drove into the entrance of a small national park of the eastern U.S., the famous Great Smoky Mts. It was reportedly raining there, so we chose to not enter the park. We went through a crazy tourist community called Cherokee, where all the settlers have good business from nearby mountains and the Indians. We left North Carolina and shortly thereafter traveled through the home state of bluegrass and bourbon; Tennessee. We passed by some very nice parts of the Cherokee National Forest--Tennessee had created a good impression. Unfortunately, thanks to the high quality of American motorways and our car, we spent only an hour in Tennessee. We quickly passed through Georgia, entering Alabama - the state deserving the name of Home of Sarracenia, as all the species are found there except S. minor. A fellow welcomed us at the Visitor Centre at the entrance to Alabama. He had spent the summer in Prague and Cesky Krumlov, so he reminded us of our homeland. We stayed overnight in the home range of the scarce S. oreophila. In the morning we could not decide on an acceptable time for a visit to the botanical garden in Atlanta, and finally we agreed on a period at the end of the journey. We decided to travel instead to the De Soto National Forest. It was not our day because the biologist was away. Luckily for us a ranger from the headquarters of the park called him, and he explained where to find Sarracenia. We got a precious map of the incidence of S. oreophila, and hoped for better success with this plan than our earlier fiasco looking for S. rubra ssp. jonesii.
Of course we wandered with a map for nothing: we oriented ourselves and recognized that we had turned at the crossroads near our locality. It was peculiar because this place was not typical for Sarracenia at all. We got there and almost ran into the forest. It was a bushy foliate wood with oaks dominanting. We vainly speculated about where Sarracenia could grow and decided after awhile to consult in the car. Kamil wanted to lie down, but I kept looking. After half an hour of looking among the shrubs and in the rain, I danced around the first plants. They grew in a small lowland which probably drained water in the rainy season, but remained damp over the year. The range of shade and condition of the plants surprised us. All the plants had phylodia, perhaps eight plants had the remainder of almost dead pitchers. This locality was in a very poor state; I do not know if the Americans would agree. It is a shame that the biologist was absent; certainly it would be interesting to chat about this case. The forest overgrowth is very bushy with dominant Acer rubrum, Carya tomentosa, Quercus falcata, Quercus shummardii, and Pinus taeda. Bramble bushes included many ferns. We found about 30 plants of Sarracenia in an area about 100 x 20 m. They grew singly or in circular clusters, often at places where light windows occurred in the canopy. Pitcher height was from 30 to 40 cm, up to 47 cm. The surface of the soil was covered by a 3 cm layer of some type of wood substrate with clayey sand beneath with a pH around 4.
We tried to take a few documentary photos. We left this peculiar locality with mixed feelings. We continued along the river, because some localities should have been nearby, but were not successful. The roads were little used; a forgotten countryside. The road was a complete switchback in one place with some ridges and falls, so that we had to work to keep our lunch in our stomachs. Pouring rain refreshed us, so we left these localities and continued through to a valley full of pastures with a lot of scattered green, traveling southward. We had a little problem as to where to stay overnight. In the end we fell out near the road above a hillside at an uninviting dump. So, at the most uninviting place of our journey we leave you to the next full account, of our experiences in South Alabama and Mississippi.
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Copyright (c) Vlastik Rybka, 1997