The Perdido Pitcher Plant
Above: This is me at the pitcher plant prairie
entrance. Yes, it was hot.
Yes I was having a bad hair day!
Pitcher Plant Prairie Update - June 2005
I visited the park on June 14th, 2005, but
was unable to get in due to the park being
closed for construction. I read where the park
was going to be closed from the park's website
I'll try to get back there in a few weeks to
see what they have done. It appears the were
beginning to lay the boardwalk from the main
entrance on into the park.
Pitcher Plant Prairie Update - July 2004
I made a quick visit to the site, and saw
that they had completed a portion of the
boardwalk. They had made
progress in clearing an area around the
boardwalk, and the S. leucophylla and D. Tracyi
were getting back into fine shape. The D. Tracyi
plants were huge.
Pitcher Plant Prairie Update - January
December, 2001, the pitcher plant prairie was
placed back on the states priority list for
aquisition. Owners of the parcels of land had
been relucatant to sell, seeking highly inflated
prices above appraisal. This, coupled with an
enormous amount of funds being diverted from the
aquisition fund to the everglades restoration
project caused the project to come to a halt.
But this all changed by late 2001. Ordinances
making it more expensive to develop wetlands,
and the US Navy seeking an ordinace to seriously
restrict developing in the area has caused some
owners to be become concerned that lan dprices
may seriously drop, and became willing to sell
their property. About 4000 acres of the original
7000 acres have been purchased by the state.
1000 acres has been lost to development. The
remaining 2000 acres will cost around $10
million to aquire.
End Of Update
The Pitcher Plant Prairie (which has now been
renamed to the Tarkiln Bayou State Park) is a
Florida State Park located in Perdido, Florida.
The land was and is continuing to be obtained by
the government to protect the pitcher plants
(the one noted was S. leucophylla) which had
been found growing there. (Actually, the Tarkiln
Bayou has been known for the better part of the
last century as a hot spot for Sarracenia,
especially S. rosea.) It should be known that
the state of Florida is still attempting to
purchase land parcels for the park. Some of the
better known places within the Tarkiln Bayou
area for Sarracenia, as of this writing, still
have not been aquired by the state, therefore I
do not list those locations here. Here is an
account of my visit to the park in July 2000.
In the late summer of 1999, my girlfriend Kristi
and I was talking to a friend about our recent
trip to Florida to look at pitcher plants. While
I was certain that her friend would not really
know what a pitcher plant was, I was surprised
to find out that not only did she know of them,
but that her brother was an attorney which had
recently closed on the sale of some land in
Florida which was to be called the pitcher plant
prairie. It was at that moment that pitcher
plants began to consume our conversation. She
gave me a little background on the state
purchase, and told me that the prairie was
located near Pensacola, Florida.
During the last week of July, 2000, Kristi and I
went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, which is just a
few miles away from Pensacola, Florida. While
down there, I decided to attempt to locate the
reserve on the internet, but only found a few
references to it. I was hoping for a map, but
only found a few references to it. (Actually, if
I had done a more detailed search, I would have
discovered that the Pitcher Plant Prairie was
located in the Tarkiln Bayou area, which is a
very famous spot which I knew well.)
Ironically, one of the best sites about the
location of the pitcher plant prairie was found
in a young womans website on mudding and
fourwheeling. It turns out that the pitcher
plant prairie used to be a favorite location in
which to take four wheel drives for some serious
mudding activity. The location was closed to all
vehicle traffic in 1999. (More on the four
wheeling activity in a moment.) None of the
internet sites I found actually gave directions
to the site, or made mention of Tarkiln Bayou,
so I gave up hope in finding it. Without
knowing where the prairie was, Kristi and I
decided to go sight seeing. We drove by the
Tarkiln Bayou Access, and discovered that it was
the Pitcher Plant Prairie.
it turns out, the pitcher plant
prairie currently includes about half of the
Tarkiln Bayou and a total land mass of about
2000 acres. (It is currently 4000 acres now.)
The proposed size is nearly 7,000 acres when and
if all of the surrounding parcels of land are
aquired, and that will be an ongoing process.
One problem is that some of the land is being
aquired by developers as well.
The rest of this article will be focused on the
Pitcher Plant Prairie as it existed in July,
2000. Remember, it is hoped that this park will
continue to grow, and hopefully include what
many consider as the crown jewel parcel. But as
of July, 2000, this parcel had yet to be
the Pitcher Plant Prairie, S. leucophylla and
S. rosea were noted to grow. (Newer notations
refer to S. rubra growing there asw well. S.
psittacina also grows there in abundance. The
actual prairie was in fairly bad shape due to
the recent drought and encroachment of woody
plants. The pitcher plants were growing in the
driest habitat I have ever seen Sarracenia grow
in. The area has been in a drought for a few
years, and it is taking its toll on the site.
Large woody plants have taken over, and the area
is in bad need of a burn. However, due to the
extreme dryness of the ground, it may be
impossible to do a controlled burn until the
drought conditions subside. The plants were
mainly found growing in the old trail made by
the four wheel drive activity of the past. The
vehicles cut a path about 8 feet wide in which
the woody plants have not grown back into yet.
One has to wonder whether or not there would be
any of these plants left in this part of the
park had it not been for the four wheel drive
activity of the past which cleared some land for
the plants to cling to.
Despite its name, until the crown jewel parcel
is aquired by the state, you are not going to
casually find pitcher plants; it will take some
hunting. I have included directions within the
park on where the plants are located, as the
park is of significant enough size that you
could spend all day there and see few or no
plants. The initial purchase did not include
some of the better Sarracenia sites within
Tarkiln Bayou, although this should eventually
happen. Looking on the ground for D. capillaris
will aid you in determining whether or not the
location could support carnivorous plants. For
those of you who want to visit, let me give you
some precautions. First, the plants are not very
conspicuous, especially rosea and psittacina.
Be extremely careful where you walk to avoid
trampling them. They are heavily restricted to
the pathway in which you will be walking, but
are covered in grass and are somewhat
camoflauged. At some point, the park will be
building a boardwalk, and this will aid you even
Also note that wildlife abounds, most notably
the pygmy rattlesnake, and it is very common in
the park. Although not necessarily deadly, it is
very agressive, and isn't the best snake to have
to contend with considering how hard you will
have to search for these plants. The snake is
relatively small, and its rattle isn't very
loud. It has been reported to sound more like an
insect buzzing sound. In any case, be very
careful. You'll have a long walk back to your
vehicle should you be bitten. I did see an
albino opossum and a black king snake, but no
The pitcher plants found growing at the pitcher
plant prairie were S. leucophylla (red & white,
green & white, and red/green & white varieties),
S. rosea, S. psittacina, and S.
rosea x S. leucophylla hybrids. D. capillaris
and D. tracyi was also found, as was at least
one specie of Utricularia. D. intermedia most
probably grows there, but its presence in this
part of Florida has declined over the past few
years due to the drought conditions. (D.
intermedia thrives in a waterlogged state, and
can be found growing directly in an inch or two
of water, and is very popular in raodside
ditches that maintain constant standing water.)
Few of the leucophyllas had flowered this year.
About a fourth of the roseas had flowered,
and about 80% of the psittacinas had flower
Below: This is a general map of the location of
the Pitcher Plant Prairie. We stayed
in Gulf Shores, Alabama on this trip and the
prairie is only about 20 minutes
away from there. It is located in Perdido,
Florida, which is adjacent to Pensacola.
Below: This is a rough drawing of the Prairie
site. The pitcher plants can be found
circling the Tarkiln bayou. They are
concentrated from about 20 yards away from
the bayou edge out to about 200 yards away from
There are basically two trails to the Tarkiln
Bayou. From the main entrance, walk 200 paces
along the main trail and hang a left on the 1st
side trail. About another 1000 paces back and
you will reach the property line of the park.
Hang a right to go to the bayou, and you will
start encountering the plants. The second side
trail can be reached by walking 1200 paces from
the main entrance and hanging a right. The
second side trail is heavily overgrown, and is
not easily seen. The plants start within about
50 paces and continue back.
And now, the pictures!
Below: My girlfriend Kristi holding the leaves
of D. tracyi. This is still a very
common plant in this area of Florida, and can be
found next to almost any roadside
ditch which stays at least moist. The plant can
be very easily overlooked, and is
best spotted in the very early morning as the
sun is rising. This allows the dew to
reflect the soft morning light, allowing it to
stand out from the other plants. I walked by
this stand of plants for three consecutive days
without seeing them. Kristi found them on her
first trip to this part of the park.
Below: A closeup of D. tracyi inside the park.
D. tracyi likes somewhat drier habits,
and you will not normally find it growing in
water. Along roadsides, you will find it
growing about halfway up the ditch embankment.
These were growing right in the
old four wheel drive paths made years ago.
Below: S. leucophylla growing in a tire rut made
by four wheel drive activity of the
past. This is a red/green version of the plant.
Below: S. leucophylla red & white variety. This
plant was growing within a few
yards of the bayou.
Below: Green & white S. leucophylla growing next
to a smaller red & white version.
Below: A large S. leucophylla with a pitcher
from last year. Larger leucophyllas
produce their largest pitchers in the fall. This
pitcher would have opened last fall,
and is just now dying down as a new crop of
pitchers are being produced. Small
leucophyllas will produce pitchers in the
spring, and medium sized leucophyllas
are producing their best pitchers now
(July-August). Leucophylla pitchers tend to
remain evergreen through winter unless the
temperatures drop below freezing. In the spring
time, you may see very large leucophylla
pitchers, but these are almost always pitchers
from a previous season.
Below: A small S. rosea producing its very
first mature pitcher.
(Center of the plant) Two juvenile leaves can be
seen growing to either side
of the center.
Below: A beautiful S. rosea which produces
green pitchers early,
turning to bronze as they age.
Below: S. rosea with heavy hood venation.
Pitchers turn blood red with age.
The top pitcher hood was slightly frilled and
and very wavy, making one wonder if there was a
little S. leucophylla influence in this plant.
My guess is that it is a pure S. rosea, as
the other leaves look very typically like a
Below: S. rosea with heavy venation. This
plant was growing under a tree which had fallen.
The only way I found it was by spotting taller
flower stalks through the branches of a few
other plants growing alongside.
Below: S. rosea growing in a very dry
habitat. The area is in need of
some heavy rainfall. This plant (as were almost
all at this site) appear to be
in excellent health, even with the very dry
conditions. Insect damage was extremely minimal
within the park. If a season of heavy rains were
to come, followed by a swift burn of the area,
the pitcher plants could be back in force in
just a few years.
Below: S. psittacina with flower. This plant is
growing in the 4 wheel drive path,
and was green with red venation. This species of
Sarracenia seems destined to be
with for some time, as it is an excellent
colonizer of roadside ditches. It grew freely
throught the CP grow zone in the park, and was
second in total number of plants
only to D. capillaris. There were sections of
the old road path that were nearly impossible to
step through without stepping on these plants.
Below: S. pisttacina growing under a canopy of
woody brush. The leaves are longer
and lack red coloration. These plants were about
10" in diameter.
Below: S. leucophylla x S. rosea hybrid.
There were several spectacular
hybrids within the park. Another S. leucophylla
x S. rosea hybrid produced green pitchers
with heavy white netting and no red pigmentation
in the pitchers.
Below: Another hybrid, but this plant is
probably not leucophylla x rosea.
Instead, it is probably a back-crossed hybrid, such
as (rosea x leucophylla) x rosea. There
is no white netting in these pitchers at all.
This plant could easily be confused with S x
catesbai (flava x rosea) except that the hood
edges are frilled (leucophylla trait) and the
lip does not contain the characteristic flava
"spout." (S. flava was not found within the park
area.) Another hybrid similar to this one
(without any white) was found in which the
pitchers (even the newly opened ones) were
uniformily blood red down to the petiole, with
no venation of any kind. It was simply a pitcher
which looked like the one below which was blood
red from top to bottom.
Below: The CP barometer plant. D. capillaris is
an excellent indicator of
whether or not a location can support other
genera of CP (The plants are reddish
and located in the center to lower part of the
photo. Two plants have flower stalks.)
Although the location is extremely dry, the
plants are covered in dew. In other
locations in Florida, I have seen this plant
grow as an annual in conditions as dry
as this, and be completely lacking of dew. These
plants seemed to be growing very well for such