Drawings by Walter Rivers
Unusual Plant Fare
By Denis Illige, Ranger-Naturalist
A trip afield on a day off from the normal duties of a ranger-naturalist is often full of surprises. While on a trip to Copeland Creek with Ranger-Naturalist D. S. Farner and Ranger Glenn Brady, "to see what we could see", a brief stop was made in a wet meadow above the headwaters of Copeland Creek. The purpose of this particular stop being to investigate the frog population, each of us went a different direction, cautiously moving along, carefully investigating the marshy areas for frogs. While so occupied, a small moth was seen entangled in the swamp grass, struggling vigorously. This being an unnatural place for a moth, closer scrutiny disclosed that it was trapped by that plant nemesis of inset life, a carnivorous plant, this one known as Sundew.
Plant life in general is characterized by a relatively mild attitude toward most animal life, particularly in respect to capturing and devouring animals. However, there are a few exceptions, Sundew or Drosera being one found in Oregon. The moth that led to the discovery of Sundew in Crater Lake National Park was entangled by the sticky "fingers" of a Sundew. These "fingers" are small hair-like projections from the leaf-blade of this plant. From the ends of these hairs is exuded a clear, neutral, sticky fluid. When a luckless insect brushes against the sticky hairs, he is indeed fortunate if he is large, or strong, enough not to be caught. Usually in the struggles of a hapless insect, he only succeeds in making matters worse for himself by agitated struggling, more contacts being made at each spasm of movement.
When the insect is solidly within the grasp of the Sundew, the leaf folds in toward its center, the sticky fluid becoming more acid, changing to a proteinaceous ferment capable of digesting the insect tissues. The digested tissues are then absorbed by the Sundew for some of its nutritional needs.
This is the first authentic record of Sundew in Crater Lake National Park. It had been reported by F. Lyle Wynd, but the specimens were note located nor the locality of the collection recorded.
E. I. Applegate, in all of his extensive collecting, did not discover it either. The area from which the present collection was made was from a patch of about 200 square feet in size, on a boggy side hill with a western exposure. The area is exposed to brilliant sunlight for most of the day. The elevation was determined from a map as about 5600 feet above sea level.
The origins of both the common name, Sundew, and the scientific name, Drosera rotundifolia, are of interest because of their aptness. The plant habitually grows in open, well-lighted places, and the clear, sticky fluid exuded at the end of the leaf hairs sparkles in the bright sunlight as do drops of dew on other plants. The scientific name Drosera is of Greek origin, meaning dewy, while rotundifolia refers to the rounded shape of the leaves.
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