Monday, March 30, 2009

USA - Tallahassee

After a brief breakfast at my hotel in Tallahassee, where I snaffled a sneaky bagel for lunch, I planned my route for the days pitcher plant hunting in the Appalachicola National Forest in Florida's Panhandle. First I decided to head to the Home Depot to see if they had any wellies as I had come with minimal baggage from Birmingham. The Home Depot was B&Q, its amazing how universal brands are even under different names. Sadly they didn't have any wellies so I sallied forth with just my trainers. Actually I wasn't sure if the guys I asked knew what I was talking about. Back in my car I began pottering out of town , passing dozens of churches but very few houses - they must be hidden in the trees. Once I reached Hosford I turned south into the forest. Very soon I saw my first pitcher plant standing tall and very green in the boggy area off the edge of the road. Further on I spotted more by their flowers this time. They were smaller ground hugging ones with beautiful pink flowers above. They were marked with pink ribbons on sticks, making it easy to see them, may be so that they don't get lawn mowered away. When I searched about around them I also found cobra headed ones, their flowers still tight balls, and sundews - two types: those with little hands and tall pale green upright ones. Further on there were green flowering pitcher plants rising up out of the dead grass beneath the pine trees. The flowers were like lime green handkerchiefs hanging down. Unfortunately there was a small stream between me and them, but I waded across, thinking how useful wellies would have been. There were plenty of little flies and mozzies too - there will be bugs where the carnivorous plants live!
The next tiny place on the map was Sumatra - how apt! - and shortly after this I turned up the track to the Wright Lake area. There were lots of red cardinals where I parked, and an alligator and bear warning. So with trepidation I set off into the woods. The ground was sandy, strewn with leaves and pine needles. The shade was pleasant beneath the pine trees and the screwpine type plants under storey plants were a surprise. As I walked I was accompanied by swallowtail butterflies, chattering birds and the drum of a drilling woodpecker. The loop took me out to Owl River where the trees changed to swamp/mangrove species. It looked like good alligator country so I made sure I was noisy, stepping on twigs and leaves. But nothing stirred in the water. I wandered on enjoying the scent of the pines, wondering if I had come to the right trail to see any pitcher plants. And then I saw a tiny sundew in the sandy path, shortly after I saw more of the green hanky flowers near the edge of the forest. Through the long grass I carefully stepped, hoping there weren't any snakes and crept close to the pitchers and found more excitement! Tall green leaves sundews, purple orchids, butteworts, cobra headed pitchers! Every few steps something else would catch my eye! Again I was pestered by little flies so that spurred me to move on. It was incredibly beautiful and tranquil following the blue markers through the forest, occasionally crossing sandy roads and passing boggy depressions filled with mangrove trees again. Eventually I came to a bench in the middle of the forest and sat down to devour my illicit bagel. It wasn't far from there back to the car but as I rounded a corner I startled something big. I had put thoughts of alligators and bears out of my mind with excitement over the plantlife, so I don't know who was more startled me or the large deer that bounded off into the forest. Back at the start I watched the birds some more and then turned my car south again to the beautiful 'forgotten coast' past Carrabelle and up through Leon county to Tallahassee. I called in at the Leon Sinks Geological area, hoping I might see more pitchers but it wasn't to be, I was out of their zone.

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