Springtime in northwest Florida brings many beautiful things, but my personal favorite has to be the pitcher plant.
This next stop in my "Exploring the Gulf Coast" series" won't take you too far from home at all. The area around Pensacola, FL is home to several bogs that provide the perfect environment for these fascinating, carnivorous plants. The specific species shown throughout this blog (and most commonly found along the northern Gulf Coast) is Sarracenia leucophylla.
"Sarracenia leucophylla has nodding, brownish-red flowers and clusters of erect, hollow, pitcher-like leaves. Each leaf is colored at top with reddish-purple veins on a white background and topped by an erect, roundish, wavy-edged hood.
It is highly variable with respect to its height, with plants in some localities reaching almost 1 meter (3.3 ft) in height, while in others, plants can be diminutive. A seldom seen 30 centimeters (12 in) tall dwarf form is endemic to Garcon Point n Santa Rosa County, Florida."
There are 3 areas of varying accessibility within a 30-45 minute drive where you can see these beautiful flowers blooming in the wild. And, since I KNOW you're not going to pick them or harm them in any way, I'll share those with you.
My personal favorite place to view pitcher plants (and where all of the above pictures were taken) is at the Garcon Point Water Management Area in Milton, FL. To get here, take Hwy 281 (Avalon Blvd) south like you're going to go over the toll bridge. Take the LAST possible left before the toll booth at the sign for the Garcon Point Water Management Area South. Park your car, coat yourself in sunscreen and bug spray, and put on your galoshes. Did I mention that before? Yeah, you're going to need galoshes because you'll be walking through water between 2 & 10 inches deep depending on how recently it's rained. Pitcher plants grow in a bog! My galoshes also give me a (false) sense of security regarding snakes that I really appreciate.
As you continue, the trail will narrow a bit and you'll see blue blazes on some of the trees marking the trail. The ground will change from sandy to dirt/mud and the trees will thin.
Not interested in donning galoshes and hiking through the brush? Then Tarklin Bayou State Park in Pensacola, FL or the Pitcher Plant Loop Trail at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley, AL are two other great places to view pitcher plants.
However you decide to check out these amazing plants, just remember, leave them as they are. "The plant is a listed vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The greatest threat to S. leucophylla, as is the case with most Sarracenia species, is loss of its unique wetland habitat to development along the Gulf Coast, as well as forest succession that was historically kept in check by natural wildfires.
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