Hooded Pitcher Plants are the answer to Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton’s question to the Georgia Department of Transportation as to why the ditches were not being mowed on GA 31 between Valdosta and Lakeland.
Gretchen Quarterman, a 10-year “Master Gardener” and the executive director of WWALS Watershed Coalition, tells WCTV Hooded Pitchers live in nutrient-poor bogs, or wetlands. They trap and consume insects to obtain nutrients for survival.
“When a bug goes in there, that [top hood] closes up, and the bug is stuck, and it’s sticky on the inside, so they can’t get away,” she said. “And then the bug gets decomposed and digested by the plant.”
Quarterman has had her own pitcher plant for about six years and says the best way to obtain one yourself is by purchasing it from a special “ native plant nursery ” licensed to sale.
But to find new clusters of the protected plants growing in the wild looks like environmental progress to Quarterman. Still, she advises never to touch them in their natural habitat.
“I’m excited that they’re on the side of the road,” Quarterman said. “I think the fact that they’re coming back means that we’re doing something right in the environment. We’ve done a lot of things wrong, and we still do a lot of things wrong. But that some of the plants and animals and birds are coming back, we must be doing something right.”
In the next step towards GDOT’s Highway 31 project, engineers will reach out to the Department of Natural Resources for guidance on what to do with the plants.
[Jason Willingham, a district pre-construction engineer with GDOT] says they’re looking into either moving them, planning construction around them or building an even better environment for them to thrive in.
“I’m happy to know that DOT is protecting them,” Quarterman said.
Why is GDOT so interested in these Sarracenia minor? “GDOT’s plan for Highway 31 is to widen the road by at least 12 feet at about four locations to add one-mile passing lanes: two in Lowndes County and two in Lanier.”
That section of GA 31, like Grand Bay WMA, is in the Alapaha River watershed. Grand Bay runs into Grand Bay Creek, then into the Alapahoochee River, then the Alapaha, then the Suwannee, down to the Gulf.
That’s in far northeast Lowndes County, at the other end of GA 31 from State Line Boat Ramp on the Withlacoochee River, where WWALS often tests for water quality, and where the WWALS Boomerang paddle race will happen, Saturday, October 24, 2020.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!