Carnivorous Plants Story
Copyright (c) 2013-2017 by Makoto Honda.
All Rights Reserved.
The cobra plant is native to northern California and the adjacent southwestern part of Oregon in the United States. The plants typically thrive in and around fast-running streams on the mountain slope. Mountain springs that provide a constant supply of fresh, cold water year round to the roots of the cobra plants are essential for the healthy and vigorous growth of the plants.
The basic trap mechanism is the same as that of the eastern pitcher plants. The leaf becomes a hollow tube in which to capture small animal prey. In the cobra plant, the overhanging hood of the pitcher forms a dome, with the pitcher opening facing downward. A fishtail-shaped projection grows from the edge of the pitcher opening. The pitcher of a mature plant grows to 40-60 cm in height in a sunny, ideal natural habitat. An interesting feature of the cobra plant foliage is that the pitchers twist 180 degrees as they grow. Tall leaves arising above the grass-covered mountain meadow resemble the deadly cobras about to strike their prey. This gave the plant its common name. The other names include the California pitcher plant and cobra lily.
The upper pitcher is covered with numerous white patches, called fenestrations, that illuminate the pitcher dome interior. These light windows also create a deceptive illusion of an exit to freedom for the potential prey.
Many nectar glands are found over much of the pitcher exterior. Insects and other small animals are attracted to the pitcher by sweet nectar produced by these glands. Many nectar glands are also located on the fishtail projection, which may provide a convenient ramp for flying insects.
The upper part of the dome has a number of small patches of translucent windows designed to light up the dome interior. Once an insect enters inside the dome, these light windows confuse the insect and distract them from finding the real exit. Moreover, tiny hairs growing on the dome ceiling make the surface slippery. The insect eventually falls into the spiral tube of the pitcher. The lower part of the pitcher tube is lined with long, stiff, downward-pointing hairs to retain the trapped prey. The pitcher contains a small amount of water at the base, and the captured prey is decomposed by bacteria. The nutrients are absorbed through the pitcher walls.
In the spring, colonies of cobra plants are covered with dainty, colorful blossoms. A single, dangling flower is borne at the tip of a tall flower stem. Five bright red petals form a slightly elongated sphere, with five tiny holes around the spherical corolla, making the flower look like a "face." Five yellow sepals softly overhang the red corolla, creating a colorful visual contrast. The cobra plants bloom from May to July in their native habitats. Thousands of cobra plant flowers covering the mountain slope create a truly breath-taking floral spectacle.
blooms singly on a tall scape (flower stalk) in a pendulous position. A large
bell-shaped ovary hangs, surrounded by 15 or so stamens. On the bottom surface
of the ovary projects a five-lobed stigma. Five red petals form a slightly
elongated sphere. Five yellow sepals overhang the corolla. The scape has 10
bracts along its length.
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