Darlingtonia Californica is one of the strangest carnivorous plants that you can ever see. Commonly referred to as the "Cobra Lily", the leaves of this plant take on a serpentine form complete with a long forked-tongue like appendage. Pitchers twist slightly and stand up tall, giving this plant a menacing appearance. These plants are native to mountainous areas of western Oregon, down through areas of north western California. They grow in sphagnum moss bogs, and also near fresh water springs. In nature their pitchers can reach a monstrous size of 40" or taller, with heads the size of a softball. Hanging blood red blooms form on tall, odd looking pale green stalks.
They are a pitcher plant utilizing a passive trapping mechanism, the 'pitfall'. The bulbous tops of the pitchers have a small opening underneath in front. Insects will land on the forked 'tongue' of the plant, and wander underneath following a scent of nectar which leads to the opening. They will crawl inside the top of the pitcher, which contains many small windows called 'fenestrations'. Light comes through these fenestrations, and when insects are ready to leave, they will usually fly up toward the light and hit the top of the inside of the pitcher, then fall down into the neck where they will be digested.
Darlingtonia are a distant cousin of the Sarracenia. But, unlike Sarracenia, Darlingtonia are monotypical, meaning they are the only species of their genus.
These plants will require cooler soil temps than most Carnivorous Plant's. They appreciate filtered light, but can grow in brighter conditions. Plants grown in strong light will be more compact with more color, plants grown in less light will be greener but larger. High humidity is a must for growing Cobra Lillies. These plants will also prefer distilled water or rain water when available. Plants can be kept quite wet during the growing season, and drier during dormancy. Some growers will water their Darlingtonia with ice water in the hotter months of summer, to help keep the root system cool enough. A dormancy of 4-6 months is required during winter months, during this time the previous year's pitchers will slowly deteriorate and brown. Through the course of each year these plants will produce plantlets on thick stolon roots. These plantlets can be seperated in the spring and replanted.
These plants can be grown in terrariums, but must be kept cool. Some growers will use a small pump to recirculate water over their Cobra Lily plants, helping to keep fresh water available to the root system. Keep them out of direct sunlight, and larger pots will also help to keep their roots cool. Misting will also be a plus.