Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Bog Plant and the Fly

A few of my favorites at the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show were the ferns, the Cosmos, the fields of Lupines, and the bog plants. Yes! The bog plants.

Love the pitcher plants and their unusual leaves and flowers! 

Here I sketched a few from one of the exhibits.

I started by sketching the leaves of this "pitfall" trap plant. The leaves curl and form pitcher shaped vessels. The top of the pitcher is a "faux" flower that attracts insects. Be wary, Hungry Fly! Dum dee dum dum, dummm!

While investigating the "flower" for food, the unsuspecting fly falls into the plant's trap. There it encounters a triple threat. First, there is a pool of water containing a wetting agent that affects the wings of the doomed creature and prevents it from flying out. When the fly tries to climb the walls, as flies tend to do, the insect finds them coated with a very slippery waxy substance. Think soft socks on a kitchen floor that has just been waxed. Plop! It falls back into the water. The insect tries to scale the wall again and this time it meets the third threat. Like pikes protecting a castle keep, there are downward facing hairs blocking its upward climb. 

Exhausted, the fly expires in a liquid that has been laced with digestive enzymes thanks to the bacteria that live there. And finally the plant can feast! HeHeHe! (evil laugh). 

This pitcher plant, which is a Northeast US native, has an outstanding deep dark red flower. Some scientists say that it mimics raw meat to attract flies, but I think it is quite lovely. I was in luck that day as the plants at the flower show were blooming, so I made a quick sketch of them after drawing the pitcher-leaves. (Color was added at home using Prismacolor Verithins.)

The petals and sepals of the flower hang down, but if you get a chance look underneath to see its most unusual star- shaped umbrella-like style that is designed to catch the pollen from the anthers above it. (See sketch above.)

These pitcher plants are in their native habitat in a bog on Hog Island, Me. 

If you want to learn more about nature in the Northeast, I would recommend Mary Holland's book "Naturally Curious." The information in her book is organized by month so you can flip through to any section and see what's blooming, buzzing, hatching, or otherwise! 

More from the Flower Show:

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