Sunday, September 15, 2013

South Florida Field Trip - Part 1

On Saturday, August 24, 2013, Michael Manna and I took a short, one-day botanical field trip to Miami-Dade County. While Michael had breakfast with his wife and daughter, I took the opportunity to look at some of his plants. So, in a sense, the botanical field trip began at his home. Michael is one of the few gardeners in Palm Beach County who has an extensive collection of carnivorous plants and I immediately headed straight for the carnivores.

As I entered the backyard, I was greeted by several Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants), among which was Nepenthes 'Red Dragon', a plant with sizeable green pitchers accented with an attractive red peristome (pitcher rim) and operculum (pitcher lid).

Nepenthes 'Red Dragon'
Nepenthes 'Red Dragon'

On the way to his American pitcher plant collection (Sarracenia species), I passed several tubs of aquatic plants, most of which had a native duckweed, Spirodela polyrhiza, growing in them. This plant is known as "common duckweed" but I find that, at least in Palm Beach County, it is less common than the dotted duckweed, Landoltia punctata, a non-native plant whose invasive tendencies are often overlooked because most people assume all duckweeds are native. One tub appeared to be filled with a delicate coon's tail (Ceratophyllum species) but upon closer inspection, the plants turned out to be the waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda vesiculosa). The latter is a remarkable aquatic carnivorous plant related to the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). Like the Venus flytrap, Aldrovanda vesiculosa also possesses snap traps, although in Aldrovanda the traps are adapted for catching small aquatic prey. The traps are tiny but they can capture prey much larger than themselves as can be seen in the YouTube Video embedded below.

Spirodela polyrhiza - Common Duckweed
Spirodela polyrhiza, common duckweed.

Adrovanda vesiculosa - Waterwheel plant
Aldrovanda vesiculosa, the waterwheel plant, growing with Spirodela polyrhiza, common duckweed. Note the whorled leaves, each of which bears a tiny snap trap. The traps are similar to those of the Venus flytrap but are much smaller.

The Sarracenia collection had dwindled somewhat from its former glory because Palm Beach County winters are a tad too warm for most sarracenias to have a proper winter dormancy; however, the ones that had persisted were doing well. I was glad to see S. leucophylla, perhaps among the most vegetatively beautiful plants native to Florida. And S. ×catesbaei had also persisted, having formed a relatively large specimen.

Sarracenia leucophylla - Whitetop Pitcher Plant
Sarracenia leucophylla, the whitetop pitcher plant.

Sarracenia catesbaei
Sarracenia ×catesbaei, the hybrid of S. flava and S. purpurea.

After admiring the carnivorous plants, I made my way back to the front yard, stopping to admire what is probably the largest firebush (Hamelia patens) in the county. It was about as tall as Michael's house, nearly twice as wide, and covered with innumerable quantities of bright orange-red tubular flowers. It presented a spectacular sight in the early morning light but, because I had only my macro lens with me, I was unable to photograph it. Also catching my attention was a beautiful Ixora hybrid with large dark green leaves and contrasting white flowers with flower buds blushed an attractive shade of pastel pink.

white-flowered Ixora hybrid
Ixora hybrid with white flowers and pink-blushed flower buds.

For more of Michael Manna's carnivorous plants, see my previous post of a visit to Michael's former home and garden.

Go to Part 2 of a "South Florida Field Trip."
Go to Part 3 of a "South Florida Field Trip."
Go to Part 4 of a "South Florida Field Trip."

Images and text © 2013 Rufino Osorio

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