A Close-Up on Carnivorous Plants
by: Plant Adventures Program Specialist Brooke McMinn
A new adventure we began undertaking in the fall of 2014 is now complete! As of this summer, visitors to The Gardens are now able to see a conveniently located representation of a pitcher plant bog, or savanna, in the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone. A pitcher plant bog is a unique habitat created by an unusual combination of porous, infertile, strongly acidic soils, a high water table and an open tree canopy. A larger bog of similar type can be seen in our Kaul Wildflower Garden, but this new installation is part of our “Close-ups on Collections” program which features different elements of our larger garden collections in the easily accessible Plant Adventure Zone garden.
As part of our native plant conservation efforts at The Gardens, this new planting showcases several species of Sarracenia, a genus of carnivorous (meat-eating) plants. Sarracenia alabamensis, also known as the Alabama canebrake pitcher plant, is endemic to Alabama, meaning it does not naturally grow anywhere else in the world. S. alabamensis is classified as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Many of the other included species are also listed as threatened or endangered, each exhibiting their own special variations on the characteristic traits of the genus.
Pitcher plants are stunningly beautiful and grotesquely intriguing at the same time. The attractive venation, appealing aroma and unusual shape of the modified leaves lure unsuspecting insects into their depths. Once trapped inside a leaf, parts of the insect are dissolved in a small puddle called a phytotelma. The resulting solution of amino acids is then absorbed by the plant as food. This carnivorous modification is thought to result from the almost negligible nutrient content of the soils in which these remarkable plants grow. Other carnivorous plants which might be found in a pitcher plant bog, such as Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap) and Drosera sp. (sundews) are also included, along with an array of non-carnivorous native plants. If you are interested in touring the Plant Adventure Zone or would like more information, please contact Plant Adventure Zone Program Specialist Brooke McMinn at email@example.com or 205.414.3914.
Lunch & Learn:
On Wednesday, July 22, Libby Rich hosted a Lunch and Learn at The Gardens. “The Understory” taught participants how to love the shade and the plants that grow there. Learn more about Libby at her site, www.libbysplantodyssey.com.
Lunch and Learn continues throughout the summer at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Learn about upcoming sessions at www.bbgardens.org/classes.
Wilds to Woodlands
Saturday, Birmingham Botanical Gardens hosted the Birmingham Zoo and Ernie, a 20-year-old gopher tortoise. Ernie plays a very important role in the wild. The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a keystone species in his native habitat, which means Ernie’s ability to burrow tunnels in the sandy soil of Alabama’s longleaf pine forest provides shelter for over 300 other species.
The longleaf pine forest ecosystem of Alabama made up the majority of the Coastal Plain physiographic section of Alabama, which covers much of the lower portion of the state. It was excluded only from the Black Belt and northwest portions of the state. North of the Black Belt, longleaf pine forest could be found on dry ridgetops in the Piedmont, Valley and Ridge, Cumberland Plateau and Highland Rim physiographic sections as far north as Marshall, Etowah and DeKalb counties. These ridgetop longleaf forests are typically called mountain longleaf forests. Native to the southeastern United States, the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) grows from Virginia to Texas, inhabiting a variety of sites from very dry to seasonally wet areas. Its original range has been shapely reduced because of agriculture, harvesting and fire suppression.
Because of the dramatic reduction to the longleaf pine ecosystems, the Gopher Tortoise is now listed as a ”threatened” species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To learn more about upcoming collaborations between Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Birmingham Zoo in the “Wilds to Woodlands” program, visit www.bbgardens.org/weekends.
Urban Farm Camp, Zoo Day
A new camp for 2015, Urban Farm Camp teaches children where their food comes from and how to grow it. During the week long, full-day camp, campers visited our neighbors at the Birmingham Zoo. Check out the photos!
Plant It, Pick It, Drink It
On Thursday, Clair McLafferty hosted Junior Board of Birmingham Botanical Gardens for “Plant It, Pick It, Drink It.” Great evening in the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone!
Family Fishing Rodeo
On Saturday, June 6, Birmingham Botanical Gardens participated in Birmingham Parks and Recreation’s Family Fishing Rodeo at East Lake Park. Check out the photos!
Student Art Display
The Gardens is proud to display student original works inspired by visits to The Gardens for what became a combination of a Discovery Field Trip made possible by Junior League of Birmingham, tours of The Archives and our Japanese Garden Collection led by Library Archivist Jason Kirby and explorations of Japanese Gardens. These vibrant, enlightening works combining haiku, iMovies, pastels, photography and watercolors will be on display in The Garden Center, Education wing, during the summer of 2015.
Birmingham City School’s Mr. Timothy Hogan’s students visited for a Discovery Field Trip and Highlands Day School’s Mrs. Anna Shelley’s students visited during their County of Study: Japan. These students were not aware that their similar culminating projects were in the works just as we were surprised to be the proud recipients. In the future, The Gardens will give even more students the opportunity to display their art in its Education wing walkway, which will be energized and educational, inspired by the students who made it possible.
The Garden Center and the Student Art Inspiration Display is open Monday-Sunday from 8-5 p.m. For the opportunity to display your students’ original works related to The Gardens, please contact Education Program Coordinator Ellen Hardy at 205.414.3953 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2015 Member Day Trip
On Thursday, June 4, Members at Birmingham Botanical Gardens visited Stone Hollow Farmstead in Harpersville, Alabama. There, they learned more about the cheeses and skin care products produced at the farm, and they participated in a pickling class, each leaving with their finished product. Members also enjoyed a delicious lunch from The Pantry, based in Crestline Village.
Earth Day at The Gardens 2015
On May 31, Earth Day at The Gardens was held in the Formal Garden in front of the Conservatory. This year’s event was postponed from April 25 due to the threat of severe weather. But storms wouldn’t stop Alabama’s largest living museum from continuing Alabama’s longest running Earth Day celebration.
This year’s event celebrated World War II-era Victory Gardens. The outdoor celebration was a continuation of the USO Tribute Show that was held on April 22.
Junior Board of Birmingham Botanical Gardens kicks off summer in style
On May 19, Junior Board welcomed summer with their “Kick off to Summer” event. Chef Lori Sours taught the class how to prepare a watermelon salsa, a spicy shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs with jalapenos and the evening’s featured cocktail, the Paloma.