It eats insects and it looks like a snake! Kind of like herping, right? On Thursday I drove up to the Sierras in search of one of the coolest plants in the US, the Cobra Lily or California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia californica
). They are native to the northern Sierras and coastal Oregon, and tend to be found only on cold seeps in serpentine rock formations. Their closest relatives are the pitcher plants in the genus Sarracenia
, which are only found in the eastern US and Canada.
Their tongues produce lots of nectar in the growing season to attract insect prey - the insects crawl up the tongue into the puffed head of the leaf, where escape is almost impossible due to a rim around the entrance. The insects then wander around until they lose their footing and fall down the back of the pitcher and drown. Unlike many carnivorous plants, Cobra Lilies apparently don't produce digestive enzymes in their fluid pools. Instead, the dead prey is broken down by bacteria and specialized endosymbiotic midge larvae, and the nutrients are absorbed the the plant.
They're pretty awesome.