Darlingtonia Botanical Gardens
Three miles north up the Coast Highway from Florence, in an area noted for dune access and freshwater lakes, are the Darlingtonia Botanical Gardens (five miles north of Florence on the east side of U.S. 101, 800/551-6949, www.oregonstateparks.org, free). In a sylvan grove of spruce and alder are a series of wooden platforms that guide you through a bog where carnivorous Darlingtonia californica plants thrive. Shaped like a serpent’s head, the darlingtonia is variously referred to as the cobra orchid, cobra lily, or pitcher plant.
The plant produces a sweet smell that invites insects to crawl through an opening into a hollow chamber beneath the plant’s hood. Inside, thin transparent “windows” allow light to shine inside the chamber, confusing the bug as to where the exit is. As the insect crawls around in search of an escape, downward-pointing hairs within the enclosure inhibit its movement to freedom. Eventually, the tired-out bug falls to the bottom of the stem, where it is digested.
The plant needs the nutrients from the trapped insects to compensate for the lack of sustenance supplied by its small root system. If you still have an appetite after witnessing this carnage, you might want to enjoy lunch at one of the shaded picnic tables.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel