Friday, May 20, 2016

Carnivorous Plant Meeting at UConn

Carnivorous plant collection at the UConn Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Teaching and Research Greenhouses.
The New England Carnivorous Plant Society held their May 14 meeting at the University of Connecticut. Activities included a tour of the botanical teaching collections, which include a good selection of carnivores. After the business portion of the meeting was concluded, some of us headed to the Dunhamtown Forest preserve, less than a mile from the center of campus, to look for some of the local carnivorous plants and other spring wildflowers. 

Dunham Pond, Storrs, Ct.
We hiked on the trails to the bank of Dunham Pond. The pond is a natural body of water, and is probably a kettle pond dating back to the last ice age, formed as a depression left behind by the melting of a large residual mass of ice left behind by the glaciers. Dunham pond hosts several species of aquatic Utricularia (bladderworts), but it was too early to see any sign of these. Purple Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea) also grow in the preserve, but in a very difficult to access swampy thicket, so we didn't get chance to visit them this time. There is an old herbarium record of Sarracenia flava, one of the large, upright southern pitcher plants, naturalized at Dunham Pond. These must have been planted out by a local botanist, and there is no sign of them surviving today.

Arisaema triphyllum, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, in the Dunhamtown Forest.
Various spring wildflowers were in bloom along the trails, such as Canada Mayflower, Wood Anemone, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, one of our local aroids. People often misidentify the inflorescences of Jack-in-the-Pulpit for pitcher plants, but no one from the NECPS was going to make a rookie mistake like that.

Drosera rotundifolia, the Round-leaf Sundew.
In the end, the only carnivore we saw at Dunham Pond was Drosera rotundifolia. This is the only sundew (of two potential local species) that occurs at the site. The plants were fairly abundant on Sphagnum moss tussocks, and sometimes growing directly in rotting wood on waterlogged fallen tree trunks.

Sarracenia purpurea in Willington, Ct.
A few of us took a break after the walk at the UConn Dairy Bar, and decided to head to another nearby bog, in Willington, Connecticut, to see Purple Pitcher Plants. The bog, a classic site for UConn biology field trips, is a floating Sphagnum mat with one of the most vigorous populations of S. purpurea that I know of, and also plenty of Round-leaf Sundews. It was a little early for the pitcher plants, which were just starting to produce flower buds and only had overwintered pitchers from last season. 
Rhododendron canadense, Rhodora, in early May, Willington, Ct.
Rhodora, a Rhododendron of bogs and swamps in the Northeast was in full bloom. This low shrub was growing in a couple of scattered spots on the Sphagnum mat, among the pitcher plants and a much more abundant ericaceous shrub, Chamaedaphne (Leatherleaf).