Perils of Michigan: The Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant, photo by Bill Dolak

With the ice now gone from the Great Lakes, Michigan was at Terror Level Burnt Orange until Bill Dolak went and took today’s photo. We’ll take the level back up to Hot Pink (at least for insects). The Michigan DNR page on the Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) explains that:

This unusual plant, usually found in bogs, is carnivorous, feeding on insects that are trapped in its bulbous pitcher like leaves. Although this carnivorous plant is a common inhabitant of acidic bogs, it also is found in fens. The highly modified leaves are covered with downwardpointing hairs on the inside which keep insects from escaping. Insects that enter the leaf eventually drown, providing the pitcher plants with important nutrients. The tiny sundews also shown in this poster are also carnivorous and trap insects on the surface of their sticky leaves.

Read more about Michigan’s carnivorous plants from the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy.

Bill took this photo in southwest Michigan’s Barry County. View it bigger on Flickr and see more in his Flowers slideshow.

More perils of Michigan on Michigan in Pictures!

Perils of Michigan: Quicksand Edition

Sturgeon River by Sven

Sturgeon River, photo by Sven

While the ice has melted, leaving the shorelines temporarily free of peril – at least until until bodysurfing season starts – we can take a moment to worry about quicksand. Quicksand in Michigan Streams from Fichigan says:

Everything I know about quicksand I learned from Tarzan movies. The main thing to know is: bad guys don’t make it out, but good guys and gals always do. If you’re a bad guy, please stop reading. Quicksand on a trout stream is a little different than sand bogs in Africa, but there’s some similarity. They are both camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late and if you make it out alive you’ll have an interesting story to tell even if no one believes you.

Quicksand on a trout stream is harder to see since it’s underwater. The stream bottom appears normal except there is no visible hole (sand covers it) so you don’t know it’s here until you start sinking. In waders it’s pretty scary since swimming doesn’t feel like an option.

I’ve found quicksand on the Pine River in Lake County and the Sturgeon River in the Pigeon River State Game Area. On the Pine, the particular spot I know of is a few bends downstream from Raymond Road. The first time I ran into it I was alone. I scrambled to get out and it was like running in place up a sand dune. It was easy to see the exact spot afterwards because a cloud of light gray silt poured out like smoke. An hour later, walking the bank downstream, the silt was still pouring out.

Read on for lots more including his encounter on the Sturgeon River.

I can find photos of almost anything View Sven’s photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his UP Michigan slideshow.

The Sturgeon River is one of Michigan’s Wild & Scenic Rivers – more Sturgeon River on Michigan in Pictures.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)

Michigan Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, photo by Jonathan Schechter/Earth’s Almanac

In Season of the Massasauga Rattler!, Jonathan Schechter writes that the massasauga  likes our sun-soaked trails in the waning days of summer and early autumn, so you may catch a glimpse of one if you’re out and about in Lower Michigan. The Michigan DNR page on the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) explains:

Michigan’s only venomous snake is a rare sight for most state residents. Historically, they could be found in a variety of wetlands and nearby upland woods throughout the lower peninsula. During the late spring, these snakes move from their winter hibernation sites, such as crayfish chimneys and other small mammal burrows in swamps and marshlands, to hunt on the drier upland sites – likely in search of mice and voles, their favorite food.

Females give birth to 8 to 20 young in late summer. The young snakes have a single “button” on their tails; a new rattle segment is added at each shedding of the skin, which occurs several times per year.

The massasauga can be characterized as a shy, sluggish snake. Its thick body is colored with a pattern of dark brown slightly rectangular patches set against a light gray-to-brown background. Occasionally, this coloration can be so dark as to appear almost black. The belly is mostly black. It is the only Michigan snake with segmented rattles on the end of its tail and elliptical, (“cat like”) vertical pupils in the eyes. The neck is narrow, contrasting with the wide head and body and the head appears triangular in shape. Adult length is 2 to 3 feet.

These rattlesnakes avoid confrontation with humans; they are not prone to strike – preferring to leave the area when they are threatened. Like any animal though, these snakes will protect themselves from anything they see as a potential predator. Their short fangs can easily puncture skin and they do possess a potent venom. It is best to treat them with respect and leave them alone. The few bites that occur to humans often result from attempts to handle or kill the snakes. Any bite from a massasauga should receive prompt professional medical attention. When compared to other rattlesnakes found in the United States, the massasauga is the smallest and has the least toxic venom.

Massasaugas are found throughout the Lower Peninsula, but not in the Upper Peninsula (thus there are no poisonous snakes on the Upper Peninsula mainland.)

They stress that Massasaugas are listed as a “species of special concern” and are protected by state law, so don’t kill or harm them. Read on for more including some lookalike snakes.

Jonathan adds that almost all rattler bites are on the dominant hand of the offending human! He took the photo above two years ago on a popular Oakland County hike-bike trail and notes that much of Oakland County is ratter habitat. Visit Earth’s Almanac to read more and be sure to subscribe to his blog when you’re there!

PS: Nick Scobel of the Herping Michigan blog has a great video of some Eastern Massasaugas that you should check out!

More Michigan snakes on Michigan in Pictures!