Theodore Payne California Native Plant Database

Darlingtonia californica

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Species Name: Darlingtonia californica
Common Name: California pitcherplant or Cobra Lily

Darlingtonia californica
Darlingtonia californica
A carnivorous plant native to Northern California and Oregon, growing in bogs and seeps with cold running water. The cobra lily 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. 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. Several plants are growing in it's shade plant section of the Theodore Payne Nursery so it can survive in Southern California with the right conditions.
The cobra lily is unique among the three genera of American pitcher plants. It does not trap rainwater in its pitcher. Instead, it regulates the level of water inside physiologically by releasing or absorbing water into the trap that has been pumped up from the roots. It was once believed that this variety of pitcher plant did not produce any digestive enzymes and relied on symbiotic bacteria and protozoa to break down the captured insects into easily absorbed nutrients. Recent studies have indicated that Darlingtonia secretes at least one proteolytic enzyme that digests captured prey. The cells that absorb nutrients from the inside of the pitcher are the same as those on the roots that absorb soil nutrients. The efficiency of the plants trapping ability is attested to by its leaves and pitchers, which are, more often than not, full of insects and their remains.

Plant Family: Sarraceniaceae
Plant Type: Perenial
Height by Width: 2-6 in. H x 4 in. W
Growth Habit: Low, spreading
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Rate: Slow
Sun Exposure: Shade
Soil Preference: Moist, preferably cool soil
Water Requirements: Constant
Cold Hardy to: 0 - 6000'
Flower Season: Year round
Flower Color: Green-Yellow to Green-Crimson
Endangered?: List 4.2; CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants(limited distribution)
Distribution: Klamath Ranges, High Cascade Range?, northern High Sierra Nevada (central Plumas, Sierra, Nevada cos.) and west Oregon.
Natural Habitat: UNCOMMON. Seeps, boggy places with running water, generally on serpentine

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