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.
Interesting creatures are often seen within the fantastic habitats of carnivorous plants across Long Island. Some can be somewhat common, while others rare. But all are beautiful in their own ways, and are always wonderful to discover. Visits to the Sphagnum bogs and ponds near the Peconic River were where these photographs were taken, and these are just a few of the interesting subjects that were observed on those summer days. In the first photograph, a cluster of traps of the spoonleaf sundew, Drosera intermedia, with brilliant red coloration is seen. The second photograph, we have a detail of these traps sparkling in the mid-day sun, showing the particular shape of the traps of this species. For the third photograph, a detailed look of a trap from the hybrid sundew, Drosera x belezeana (Drosera rotundifolia x intermedia). Known from other parts of the world, this hybrid was recorded for the first time in New York, by the author in the summer of 2012. This particular trap is a great example of the blending of characteristics between the parent species. For quick observation, the trap appears much like that of Drosera rotundifolia, yet is nowhere as wide, and a little more elongated, inheriting some traits from Drosera intermedia.
Onto the fourth photograph, there is a trap from the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, springing forth from its mossy habitat of the Sphagnum bog. The fifth photograph, is a flower of the Broadleaf Arrowhead, Sagittaria latifolia, which often grows near carnivorous plants in the wetter parts of the habitats. Sometimes known as the Duck Potato, which is strange, because ducks rarely eat the tubers of this plant. And for the final photograph, we see a female Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans, sitting on the edge of a coastal plains pond. The frog was very cooperative, allowing for close-up photographs with a 50mm lens coupled with a set of macro tubes. Was she remaining so perfectly still hoping to go unnoticed by a potential predator? Or was she gracefully posing for the photography session, basking in the adoration and recognition of her glorious beauty? I asked, but she only replied “ribbit”.
Sarracenia puprurea are the only species of pitcher plant that grow native on Long Island, NY. Once there were populations across the island, now there are only a few locations left, primarily in the pine barrens around the Peconic River in eastern Suffolk County. They have been observed on floating Sphagnum bogs in coastal plains ponds, in sunny meadows of Sphagnum moss under power lines, and in Sphagnum bogs on the edges on slow moving tributaries of the Peconic River, or in the peaty soil with Atlantic White Cedar in those bogs. Many other carnivorous plants accompany them in their habitats, Drosera rotundifolia are always found, Drosera intermedia usually as well. In two locations, the hybrid Drosera x belezeana (Drosera rotundifolia x intermedia) have been found with the pitcher plants. Bladderworts such as Utricularia gibba are often seen, and U. juncea, U. purpurea, U. macrorhiza have been observed growing alongside them in many locations as well. Although for most of the locations, their populations seem to be doing quite well, in a few sites there seem to have dwindling numbers. It is unfortunate that this curious plant has been extirpated from many of their former locations on Long Island, and it is hoped that the remaining populations will continue to persist well into the future.