Category: 2013

Sundews in the Sand Dunes

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Drosera filiformis, or the threadleaf sundew, tend to grow in sandy and wet areas on Long Island, usually near or around coastal plains ponds. They also surprisingly grow among the sand dunes of the south fork of Long Island. Some of these dunes can reach 80 feet high, and shift with the winds, marching steadily across the landscape. In these dunes, there are swales, and there is one that reaches down to the ground water table. This keeps the sandy soil consistently wet with fresh water, and cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, and pitch pine trees, Pinus rigida, grow throughout this swale. Other interesting plants grow here as well, such as the bog orchids Rose Pogonia, Pogonia ophioglossoides, and the Grass Pink, Calopogon tuberosus. Then there are the carnivorous plants, the spoonleaf sundew Drosera intermedia, and of the most interest here, the threadleaf sundew, Drosera filiformis.
In the first photograph, we see a swath of Drosera filiformis, growing in nearly pure sand and exposed to continuous sunlight throughout the day. The second photograph shows a closer look at this population, and the sandy soil where it grows. The color of the plants appear to be a curious orange color, where Drosera filiformis are known as mostly green, or completely red, in the case of certain populations in Florida. For the third photograph, we have a detailed view of an individual plant from this population. With closer inspection, we see that its leaves are still green, but very much a yellow-green color. Perhaps because of the long-term continuous exposure to strong sunlight, the green color of the leaves of these plants, have shifted to become more yellow. The trapping tentacles are the typical red color, and when seen from an average viewing distance, it seems that the yellow tinge of the leaves, combined with the red tentacles, give the plants the pleasant orange hue we see here. This is observed at one specific spot in this dune swale location, the other Drosera filiformis nearby, being more typical in character. Other locations on Long Island can have plants with an orange tinge to their hue when exposed to strong sunlight, just never quite as brilliant as these particular plants in this little swath in the great dune swale.
The fourth photograph shows the flower of Drosera filiformis from this population, and the final photograph shows the flowers being pollinated by a bee-mimic hoverfly, perhaps a species of Sphaerophoria. The carnivorous traps seem precariously close to their flowers, yet when the hoverfly was observed, it went directly from flower to flower with focused purpose, and no distraction. There are other nearby locations where Drosera filiformis grow within sand dune swales, although this is the most brilliant of them all. Strange as it may seem, that surrounded by dry sand, with no visible fresh water, and with the salt-water of the sea mere hundreds of yards away, plants that are normally found around ponds can flourish with such great vigor and numbers. Though here they are, another wonderful surprise in the unusual and bizarre world of carnivorous plants.

Flowers from the Bogs

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Where the carnivorous plants grow, there are many other denizens of the bogs, ponds and wetlands. Some of these other denizens produce beautiful flowers, and they often do so around the time when the carnivorous plants are at the peak of their growing season. When exploring the habitats for carnivorous plants, one will invariably encounter the intricate and colorful flowers that are neighbors to the carnivores which are the focus of this project. In the first photograph, there is Rose Coreopsis, Coreopsis rosea, with a tiny crab spider concealed and laying in wait for a potential meal. The plant is usually found along the coastal plains pond shores where many carnivorous plants grow as well. The second photograph is of the Meadow Beauty, Rhexia viginica, also found along coastal plains pond shores and frequently accompanying carnivorous plants in wet, sandy habitats. The third photograph is of the Bog White Violet, Viola lanceolata. Quite commonly seen, it is pictured at the edge of another coastal plains pond. The fourth photograph shows the bog-orchid Rose Pogonia, Pogonia ophioglossoides. This image was taken at a Sphagnum bog where Atantic White Cedar and the pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea grow, along with many other species of carnivorous plants. The fifth, and final photograph, is of the Grass Pink bog-orchid, Calopogon tuberosus. This location is in a sand dune swale that dips to the ground water, keeping the sandy soil consistently wet with fresh water. The sunny meadow habitat is protected by stunted pine trees, and is accompanied by a fantastic population of the threadleaf sundew, Drosera filiformis. These are but a few of the many interesting and beautiful flowers that are seen in the habitats of carnivorous plants. They add delightful additions to the natural history wonders encountered when exploring these wetlands, and create a charming balance to the seemingly sinister nature of the carnivorous plants.

Creatures of the bogs

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In the habitats where carnivorous plants grow, many other interesting plants and animals are found as well. Some of these creatures can be just as fascinating as the carnivorous plants that are the focus of this project. Deep in the pine barrens region of Long Island, NY, there is a sandy trail that passes near a pond. Along this trail, the three species of native sundews grow, Drosera filiformis, D. intermedia, and D. rotundifolia. The bladderwort Utricularia cornuta also accompany them here. The first photograph was taken along this trail, and the subject is the mushroom Russula emetica. Also in the photograph is Hypericum canadense, which is the red plants, and the sundew Drosera intermedia. The second photograph is of the clubmoss Lycopodium appressum, with cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, surrounding it, and the threadleaf sundew Drosera filiformis behind it. This location is in a dune swale, which dips to the groundwater that keeps the nearly pure-sand soil wet with freshwater. Small, stunted pine trees protect this meadow oasis from the desert-like conditions where this habitat is found. In the third and fourth photographs, we return to the sandy trail, where we see the clubmoss Lycopodium inundatum, and a species of Agelenopsis, known as the grass spider. For the final photograph, the eastern amberwing, Perithemis tenera, perches along the shoreline of a coastal plains pond where native sundews and bladderworts grow. As can be seen, any excursion to view carnivorous plants in their habitats, will undoubtedly reward the visitor with a great variety of other interesting flora and fauna as well. This can remind us of the rich ecosystems which often exist alongside our local communities, and which deserve our continued protection.

Threadleaf sundews in the sunshine

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The graceful and wicked Drosera filiformis, commonly known as the threadleaf sundew. These plants are growing naturally along the gently sloping, sandy shoreline of a coastal plains pond on the south fork of Long Island, NY. Seen in the photos are details of the traps of the plant, a profile of one of the plants with seed pods developing on its flower stalks, the open habitat where they grow, and a prey capture of the spider wasp, Episyron biguttatus.
This location is one of Long Island’s greatest populations for this plant, and it is thanks to the local conservation groups that this land was not developed. Without their efforts, it is most certain that the habit where the plants grow would have been plowed over for waterfront housing, and manicured green lawns. Forever removing the ecosystem where these, and many other rare and unusual plants grow, with the animals that coexist with them. Photographs are from the early Summer season of 2013.