I am not sure I understand the attraction, but I love pitcher plants. Anywhere they grow, I try to visit and photograph them. There is a very interesting pitcher plant in Northern California (and parts of Oregon) called the cobra lily that I had long wanted to photograph. I had my chance a few weeks ago when I was up north photographing the redwoods with a friend, Chuck Summers.
I had asked at one of the visitor centers where I might find pitcher plants. The ranger was really helpful and directed me to a place east of Crescent City, California. And he suggested I check with the Forest Service visitor center in Gasquet (also east of Crescent City). The woman running the center was hugely helpful, offering maps and all sorts of information. It turned out there was an excellent area for cobra lilies just east of Gasquet. I love stopping into visitor centers and talking with the staff there. They have always been extremely helpful in directing me to better photo opportunities.
The location was great for cobra lilies, but conditions were harsh sunlight and not so great for photographing the plants.
I tried all sorts of things -- I was determined! That last shot is even HDR! That shows the conditions.
And then I got low, below the plants looking up at the sun -- I finally got something I found exciting.
This image does a number of things besides being visually fun. It shows off a bit of the setting, giving a sense of the plant in its environment. In addition, this low angle shows off the opening below the "cobra head" where insects go inside.
Insects are attracted to smells from inside the plant. They enter the hole, but then there is a big problem for them. The top of the plant glows with light (you can see that in the photo, too) at its top. The top of the "cobra head" is more translucent than the rest of the plant and really lets in the light.
This is very attractive to insects who head toward the light. You have probably seen this with flies at a window. This makes for a very efficient trap that always stays open! Insects get tired out, then fall back into the tubular main "stalk" of the plant (this part of the plant is technically a modified leaf!).
There, down-facing hairs and slippery sides force the insect down to its death. A pool of water below holds enzymes and bacteria that dissolve the insect for its nutrients. All pitcher plants tend to grow in conditions where it is difficult to get certain needed nutrients for growth from the soil, so they have developed this ingenious way of getting what they need.
While at this location, I noticed the cobra lilies were blooming. The flowers are quite unusual, too, and could be easily overlooked. Their colors blend with the surroundings.
These striking pitcher plants are quite beautiful. And they do indeed look like cobras!