In an earlier post I noted that I had found two of the three species of sundew that occur in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, but had not yet located the Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). My search came to an end in late July while I was hiking in Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area. I was busy photographing several flowers and was about to walk away when I noticed the a small patch was covered in sundew. It only took a couple moments to locate this Round-leaved sundew.
This was a pretty good summer for pine barrens plants, my first year of really attempting to learn about the botany of this amazing area. I have a few more photos to process and plan to have them posted soon. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about my sundews!
Here is a plant that I didn’t expect to find in the New Jersey pine barrens, the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa). There are apparently over 200 species of prickly pear cactus scattered thoughout the Americas. Here in New Jersey, the prickly pear produces large showy flowers that bloom for about a day. The oval fruits are red or red-purple which, when ripe and properly prepared, are edible.
Prickly pear cactus have been introduced in many places around the world where, unfortunately, it can spread as an invasive weed. I photographed this large specimen in the village of Malealea located in the highland kingdom of Lesotho, Africa. Attempts to eradicate the cactus have been almost completely unsuccessful, so the villagers attempt to manage plants by periodically cutting or burning them back.
Fortunately, prickly pear doesn’t grow so large in the pine barrens and is an interesting addition to the variety of plant life found here.
Sundews are another family of carnivorous plants which call the pine barrens home. Three species of sundews occur in bogs, swamps, and other wet, sandy places. Like other carnivorous plants, they supplement their normal nutritional intake from the pine barren’s poor soils by capturing and digesting insects.
I photographed this spatulate-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) while on a botany field trip in Warren Grove, New Jersey. Note the long-stalked leaves are covered with short hairs. Each hair exudes dew-like drops which happen to be very sticky. Unsuspecting insects are attracted to the leaves and become entangled by these sticky hairs. As the insect struggles to free itself, the leaf slowly wraps around it and completes the trap.
This is a thread-leaved sundew (Drosera filiformis), photographed on the same field trip. The leaves of this sundew develop into erect, unbranched stems that can be 6 to 16 inches long. These stems are covered with short, gladular hairs tipped with a dew-drop of sticky liquid.
Here’s a close-up of a thread-leaved sundew which shows hundreds and hundreds of glandular hairs – an effective trap for any insect unfortunate enough to come to close to the sundew’s leaves.
The thread-leaved sundew produces numbers of rose-pink to ruby flowers from mid-June through late August. I was fortunate enough to have this flowering plant pointed out to me by a fellow field tripper.
The round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) also grows in the pine barrens but is quite small and easily overlooked. I have yet to find one, but will post a photo as soon as I do. I find all of the carnivorous plants of the pine barrens quite facinating, as I hope you do too.
New Jersey’s pine barrens are home to several species of carnivorous plants, including the Pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea). The leaves of pitcher-plants are shaped like tubular pitchers capable of holding water. The tip of each leaf is covered in downward pointing hairs. Insects are attracted to the leaf’s color and scent, fall into the water inside, and are unable to fly or crawl out. The plant draws nutrients from the decaying insects trapped by its leaves.
Pitcher-plants are common in bogs and swamps of the pine barrens, with clusters of leaves often jutting through mounds of sphagnum moss, as with this plant.