COBRA LILY Darlingtonia californica

COBRA LILY Darlingtonia californica

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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 require a cold stratification period of 4 weeks.  A soil mixture of peat and perlite at a 1:1 ratio works well.  Surface sow seeds on the soil mix, spritz down with a spray bottle to get seeds to settle.  Place the container with the spritzed seeds in a sealed ziploc bag in the fridge to complete the cold stratification period. 

After the cold stratification period, remove the seeds from the fridge and bring up to room temperature in a bright sunny location.  Seeds will germinate better in a humid environment, this can be done by covering the container with cling wrap.  Place the container in a dish with either rain, distilled or reverse osmosis water.  Do not let the soil dry out.  Regular tap water will likely end up killing the plants.  They should germinate in approximately 3 months.


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