My grad school adventures continue as I conducted a full day of field work yesterday, my first since I was finally able to get the boot off my foot. I met up with Nongame Botanist Lisa Kruse and Suzi Mersman near Claxton, Georgia (the fruitcake capital of the world!) ready to get out to the bog and sample my plants.What’s funny was that she had said “hey why don’t we meet around 3pm or so, maybe avoid the heat of the day and nobody has to get up at the crack of dawn. (the site is almost four hours from my house.) Well as Suzi relayed to me, she happened to check the weather and it just so happened that the “heat of the day…103 degrees” would hit exactly at 3pm. Oh well. So we were hot, very very hot, but then again nobody ever said that field work was supposed to be comfortable. 🙂
There are several species of pitcher plants in south Georgia and the ones I happened to be looking for are some of the most beautiful. My research focuses on the obligate associates of several species of pitcher plants, which means the insects and arthropods that actually make their homes inside the plants rather than becoming dinner for their carnivorous hosts.
Not much is known about the relationships between the plants and the obligates other than the fact that the obligates are dependent on the survival of the plants, which are all protected in Georgia. It isn’t know
n however whether the plants need the obligates though and that is only one of the many questions I am hoping to answer during my research.
Of course in my excitement to actually get out and get some work done after being laid up for several months with a torn tendon I made the enormous mistake of wearing shorts so I ended up pretty scratched from briars but I was actually too excited about number of beautiful plants to notice.
I collected from sarracenia flava, a big beautiful yellow-green species as well as
the coastal plain variety of sarracenia purpurea(the mountain
variety is federally endangered) and a really cool hybrid consisting of a mixture of both S. flava and S. purpurea. I also took a few samples from S. minor, which looks a little different from the rest of what I am studying but interesting nonetheless.
Just in case you have no idea what a pitcher plant is here are a few basic diagrams: Almost all species are the same as far as basic function. They lure their prey with a colorful leaf covering called an operculum and when the unfortunate insects investigate they slip and fall into the tube where they are slowly digested. The inner part of the tubes have a series of hairs followed by a section of slick-as-glass leaf and then more hairs going the opposite direction of the ones at the top. So if you’re a pitcherplant’s prey and you find yourself in the tube you are pretty much dinner. There is no way out. Pretty cool huh!
Before heading home I also had a real treat, getting to see Georgia Plume for
the first time in the wild. And it was beautiful. It seemed to go on forever… so thanks Lisa a for sharing that with me. If you are interested in seeing more of my photos please visit my flickr site.
Until next time!