Floating Bog of Pitcher Plants

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Sarracenia purpurea, the purple pitcher plant, grows naturally in the Suffolk County Boglands. Some of their habitats are along the tributaries to the Peconic River, others in sunny and wet meadows of Sphagnum moss among the watershed. This location is on a floating Sphagnum mat in the middle of a pond, surrounded by uplands woods, and this place is of special interest because of its history. During the 1990’s, the land was bought by a developer, and slated to be paved over for a parking lot for a new shopping center. The one thing that had prevented this development, was that the pond was found to support a breeding population of the Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. While the Salamander lives in other areas of the eastern US, and even a few small parts of Canada, Long Island is the creature’s northern-most range along the Atlantic coastal seaboard. In New York State, it is only found on Long Island, and its populations have been dwindling due to development, and contamination of its breeding ponds from pesticides and other pollutants. And so it is considered as an Endangered Species, and its breeding ponds are designated as Class 1 wetlands in the State of New York. Because the Tiger Salamanders were found at this location, the pond and a large tract of the surrounding woodlands were set aside for a nature preserve. Other rare and interesting flora and fauna of the coastal plains community type of habitat exist in this preserve as well, including the Sarracenia purpurea seen here in these photographs.
Sarracenia purpurea is found across the eastern seaboard of the US and across parts of Canada. It exists in many areas of upstate New York, but on Long Island it is steadily disappearing from many of its historically known locations. There are a number of populations that persist, but they are fewer in number, and in habitats that are under stress, and so it becoming more and more unusual to find these fantastic plants in their wild habitat on Long Island. Of the habitats that are left, this is one of the most beautiful sites, with some of the finest and healthiest specimens found in the remaining locations on the island. It is thanks to the Tiger Salamander being found at this site, that the location and surrounding habitat were preserved and protected. Otherwise these pitcher plants in the photographs would no longer exist, nor would the floating Sphagnum bog where they grow, and all the other interesting creatures that live here would be gone as well. The land would have been dug out, flattened, and paved over for a parking lot for shopping convenience. Here is a wonderful example of how protecting one species of life can help preserve the ecosystems and habitats where they exist, as well as all the other life which live within, and depend upon, these beautiful and fascinating places. Sometimes in what looks to be an empty lot of undeveloped land in the back of a shopping center, there can be a rich and biodiverse ecosystem, flourishing with strange creatures while thousands of everyday people come and go all around it, day after day, completely unaware.

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