I love going to places that are ecologically unique such as Spruce Knob and I asked my professor if he knew of any other cool places nearby I should visit and he told me I should swing by Cranesville Swamp. It’s on the border of West Virginia and Maryland. The drive out there was on some serious backcountry roads. No four wheel drive needed but the small roads go for maybe 20 miles and are just torn to shreds. Big potholes all over the road.
Once we arrived we walked around trying to spot the 3 things I really wanted to see and I knew they were found here. They are the Round-leaf Sundew, Purple Pitcher Plant (both carnivorous plants) and the Eastern Larch. This swamp is the most southerly point of the Larch’s range. Here’s what we found!
LBM (little brown mushroom) fruiting in the bog. Sundew in the sphagnum peat moss. I may have sacrificed at hover fly out of curiosity Round-leaf Sundew with the digested husk of hover fly still stuck to the leaf.
A Purple Pitcher Plant flowering!
The lip of one of the pitchers covered with backward facing hairs that I presume make it difficult for an insect to crawl back up. The prey insects are attracted to the pitcher by a sweet scent and fall in where they drown. They then get digested by microbes living in the water in pitcher. The microbes release the nutrients that were within the insect prey and the plant then uses them to grow. Nitrogen is the main nutrient they are trying to obtain since soggy bogs are very low in it. The plants still photosynthesize and make their own sugars, they just need to eat animals for their nutrient needs. That is why most carnivorous plants live in bogs!
This spider wasp has stung and paralyzed this poor spider and is dragging it back to a burrow it dug where it will then insert an egg into the spider, which upon hatching, the wasp larva will eat the still living spider from the inside out, avoiding vital organs to keep it living and fresh. Then the larva will leave the husk of the spider, pupate and emerge as an adult wasp. The circle of life!
For whatever reason I could not find any Larch anywhere 😦