By Tom & Patti Burkett
RV Podcast Off the Beaten Path Reporters
This spring our rhubarb plant went out of control. It sprouted three huge flowering stalks which bent from their own weight and then grew sideways and then up again reminding us of nothing so much as Audrey 2 from the Little Shop of Horrors. “Feed me!” we imagined her saying as we passed close by.
So Patti got out the clippers and lopped off her offending parts, then most of the leaves (from which she mad rhubarb pudding cake, one of my favorites) and now the plant looks tame indeed.
There really are, though, as I’m sure you know, meat-eating plants out there off the beaten path!
The Burketts audio version of this article can be heard on Episode 299 of the RV Podcast. Click the player below and fast forward to about 48:27 to hear them:
Most of the carnivorous plants subsist on insects, but they do score an occasional worm, small frog, or even an unwary lizard. You go, plants! These carnivorous plants are specialized for growing in low nitrogen soil. Inasmuch as nitrogen is a primary plant nutrient, what the soil lacks is gathered from the surrounding area by attractive nectar and aromas. You can find pitcher plants in any bog around North America, tucked among the sphagnum moss and lady’s slippers.
Off the Beaten Path to the world of flesh-eating plants
But if you want to get a good look at the stars of the meat-eating plant world, you’ll have to head off the beaten path to the Carolinas on the east coast or California and Oregon in the west.
The Cape Fear area of North Carolina is in the heart of flytrap country, and it was here that Stanley Rehder grew up, first helping his grandmother sell flowers from her yard to visitors on their way to a nearby cemetery and, later, at his father’s wholesale and retail florist business. He earned a degree in horticulture from NC State University.
Stanley fell in love with carnivorous plants and spent his career studying and promoting them. He appeared on “Good Morning, America”, and “That’s Incredible,” and was interviewed by Barbara Walters on the “Today” show, always with plant in hand to explain its unique features.
He found a boggy off the beaten path area behind a local elementary school and began to transplant and culture his favorite specimens.
When Rehder passed away in 2012, the area was designated as a preserve in his name.
When you’re driving US 17 (one of our favorite off the beaten path broads) along the East coast, turn off on Independence Boulevard in Wilmington, North Carolina and drive a few blocks south to the Piney Ridge Nature Preserve.
A paved path and boardwalk will take you back into the garden, where a surprising variety of plants grow in the bog, and some are cultivated in planters right on the boardwalk so visitors can have an up-close and personal look.
Carolina Beach State Park, a few miles south, also has a flytrap trail that winds through a bog with many pitcher plants and bladderworts.
Off the beaten path carnivorous plants out west
There's another off the beaten path spot to observe more meat-eating plants just north of Florence, Oregon. Look for the Darlingtonia wayside stop, where a paved trail will take you into a bog where you can see the cobra plant, which looks just like its namesake, waving above the peat.
Stanley, the flytrap man we talked about above, may be gone, but thanks to his effort and foresight, we can all have a look at some rare and beautiful (if just a touch scary) plants, out here…. off the beaten path.
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