COBRA LILY Darlingtonia california

COBRA LILY Darlingtonia california

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Darlingtonia californica, also called the California pitcher plant, cobra lily, or cobra plant, is a species of carnivorous plant. It is native to Northern California and Oregon growing in bogs and seeps with cold running water. This plant is designated as uncommon due to its rarity in the field.

The name "cobra lily" stems from the resemblance of its tubular leaves to a rearing cobra, complete with a forked leaf - ranging from yellow to purplish-green - that resemble fangs or a serpent's tongue.

In cultivation in the UK this plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Note the small entrance to the trap underneath the swollen 'balloon', and the colorless patches that confuse prey trapped inside.

The cobra plant is not only restricted to nutrient-poor acidic bogs and seepage slopes, but many colonies actually thrive in ultramafic soils, which are in fact basic soils, within its range. In common with most carnivorous plants, the cobra lily is adapted to supplementing its nitrogen requirements through carnivory, which helps to compensate for the lack of available nitrogen in such habitats.

In addition to the use of lubricating secretions and downward-pointing hairs common to all North American pitcher plants to force their prey into the trap, this species carefully hides the tiny exit hole from trapped insects by curling it underneath and offering multiple translucent false exits. Upon trying many times to leave via the false exits, the insect will tire and fall down into the trap. The slippery walls and hairs prevent the trapped prey from escaping. The only other species that utilizes this technique is the Parrot Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia psittacina.

Like many other carnivorous plants of temperate regions, cobra lilies require a cold winter dormancy to live long-term. Plants die down to their rhizomes in frigid winters and will maintain their leaves in cool winters during their dormancy period. This period lasts from 3 to 5 months during the year, and all growth stops. As spring approaches, mature plants may send up a single, nodding flower, and a few weeks later the plant will send up a few large pitchers. The plant will continue to produce pitchers throughout the summer, however much smaller than the early spring pitchers.

Type: Hardy perennial

Hardiness zones: 7-10 planted outdoors, or grow indoors.

Height: 12-36"

Seeds per pack: 5

Germination: These seeds germinate best on dampened sphagnum moss. Soak the moss for 1 hour, then gently squeeze out excess water, but allow some moisture to remain. Place the moss in a container, and sprinkle the seeds on top. Cover the container with plastic to retain moisture, and set the container on a tray of water. Place the container in very bright light, and in a very warm location, ideally 27C, 80F. Once the small plants begin to grow, slowly open the plastic a little each day. Use rain water or bottled water (use a spritz bottle while plants are small) to regularly water plants. Once plants are large enough to transplant, a growing mix consisting two parts sphagnum moss (long fibre type), and one part sand can be used. Be sure to never let these plants dry out. Seeds germinate in approximately 3 months.


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