A trip to Butterfly Valley (aka Darlingtonia country!)

You may be surprised to learn that I’ve never seen wild carnivorous plants before this trip! California is a huuuuge state, and the nearest wild habitat to me is about 3.5 hours away by car.

Sometimes I’m envious of my friends in the Midwest and the South, who seem to be surrounded by bogs filled with sundews, plushy sphagnum and pitcher plants galore. The nearest wild growing carnivores are in their backyard or a short walk away. But then I remember I live in California. Ahh, trade-offs.

But last week I finally made the trip to Butterfly Valley Botanical Area! It’s hard to keep my mouth shut about how truly amazing it was, but I’ll try to let the photos do most of the talking. 🙂

First sign!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Second sign! We were glad these were here. We had no idea if the area was going to be marked, if the plants would be visible from the road, or if we’d have to hike for miles.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area
This was the trailhead where we stopped and got out. The pamphlets read that the Butterfly Valley Trail was a two-mile loop that would come to a meadow filled with pitcher plants. The husband and I aren’t super avid hikers, but two miles didn’t seem like a big deal.
Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

This is the sign that gave me chills in the middle of the day while it was 95 F degrees out.  We walked maybe 1/10th of a mile when we came to this.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

As the trail continued past this sign, the first meadow looked to be nothing but a grassy field. As we kept walking, the second meadow area didn’t look like much from the trail either. It kept nagging at me, though, so I went off the trail for a closer look.

And there they were!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

The live Darlingtonia in this first area seemed small, and highly outnumbered by last season’s dead growth. The ground also felt dryer than I expected.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

This little guy had the reddest coloring we saw on any plants there. Nearly all other pitchers were completely green. Some had a decent amount of reddish tone on the head and tongue, but no pure red tongues like this one.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

We kept exploring the meadow and noticed the pitchers definitely got bigger where the ground was wetter.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

Lots of lovely Darlingtonia flowers too!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Around this point, I started hunting for sundews. I knew there were Drosera in Butterfly Valley, and possibly pings.

Initially, they were easy to miss unless you were specifically looking for them.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Drosera rotundifolia, I’m guessing? At first they seem pretty localized to this one slightly muddy patch.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

But then I found my meandering husband, told him I found them, and tried leading him to this same muddy patch, but found a different one.

Every speck of red is a sundew!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

We continued on. The ground got muckier and the plants got amazinger.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

I’m pretty sure I said, “HOLY SHIT” loud enough for the whole valley to hear when I saw these sundews. Have you ever seen Drosera look happier and dewier?

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Happy, red sundews as far as the eye can see!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

And can’t get enough cobras, of course!

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Also, some kind of gorgeous lily! Can anyone identify it?

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

 

I can’t even begin to describe how surreal it was to see Darlingtonia growing wild. Not just to see them, but to be surrounded by them. I’d kneel down to take a picture of one. After lowering the camera, I’d look to my right and see tons more pitchers. Then I’d looked to my left and see more.

I’m not a religious or spiritual person, but it was a deeply moving experience for me. Imagine what it was like for the first botanists to find them! Seeing these strange plants in the wild, taking samples back, opening them up and examining their contents. Then coming to the realization that these plants are eating.

Also just as an interesting side note, I’m one of those people that gets eaten alive by biting insects and has awful allergic reactions to them. Aaaand we forgot the bug spray! I expected to become a miserable, itchy mess of hives, but I wasn’t! I left the trip with only two bites. Silently, I’m thanking the carnivores for protecting me.

That about wraps Butterfly Valley and my first trip to see wild carnivores! As a little bonus, here are some other interesting flowers and plant life from the area. Of course, I don’t know most of them.

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

Butterfly Valley Botanical Area

butterfly-valley-carnivorous-plants-2016-1

butterfly-valley-carnivorous-plants-2016-2

Thank you all for reading! Any chance you get to experience carnivorous plants in their wild homes, DO IT! Seeing the Darlingtonia and Drosera living happily with no human hand involved was worth the whole trip for me. 🙂

The husband and I are hoping to visit North Carolina at some point, so wild Dionaea might be next!

Thanks again for reading! See you next time!

10 comments

  1. Alexis Wallick says:

    Great pictures! Darold and I just got back from New Orleans where we took a trip to Abita, LA to see some wild sarrs. It was amazing to see them in the wild! There were supposed to be drosera and pinguicula too but we didn’t see any, the ground was pretty dry. We’ll have to head up this way next!

  2. Lulu says:

    Only two bug bites?! You’re making me optimistic for my bogging experiences haha. That place looks amazing can’t wait to see it someday 🙂

    • Maria says:

      Haha I know, right?? One on top of my foot, one behind my knee. Although I was wearing boots in the bog, so the one on my foot was probably while I was wearing flip flops somewhere.

      I’m not holding out hope for the bug situation in the deep south, though, lol!

  3. Fiona says:

    Amazing pics!! Those cobras are gorgeous. P.s. the mystery lilies are wild tiger lilies 🙂 thank you for sharing!!

  4. Allyson says:

    Holy AWESOMENESS Maria!!! There’s something magical about feeling the complete happiness that a friend has experienced – thank you for sharing!! I gotta get my butt up there 😀

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