Not-so-Mellow Yellow

March 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm (National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Photography, Wildflowers) (, , , )

Yellow Butterwort

Yellow Butterwort

There are several yellow-flowered plants in and around the Okefenokee swamp that don’t quite act like you’d expect a plant to act.  The yellow butterwort, like its relatives the dwarf and purple butterwort, eats BUGS!

Yellow butterwort leaves

Yellow butterwort leaves

The flower itself is not the carnivorous part.  Instead it is the whorl of leaves at the base, often covered in dead pine needles or other vegetation.  If you look very closely, you will see little beads of sticky sap that both entice and snare ants and other small denizens of the ground.  The leaf’s enzymes will digest these little mites to extract minerals that are absent from the boggy soil.

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The other carnivorous plant in bloom right now at Okefenokee is the yellow bladderwort, which is aquatic.  The insect-trapping part is the extensive root system that floats from the chandelier-like root stems that float on top of the water.  The roots have hundreds of tiny air-filled bladders that spring open when a tiny larvae or zoo-plankton touches them.  That causes a suction that sucks the unsuspecting prey into the bladder where it is digested.  Yum.

Yellow bladderwort

Yellow bladderwort

Unfortunately, the refuge insists on aggressively mowing the shoulders along Swamp Island Drive, so people who come to see flowers such as butterworts, pitcher plants, orchids, and other amazing plants are often deprived of that opportunity. When I worked there I advocated vociferously for the preservation of roadside wildflowers, and got some small concessions.  Perhaps if they heard from enough unhappy visitors they would change this practice.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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