The pygmy forests along Mendocino’s coast are utterly fascinating. The place is an ecological wonderland of tiny, gnarled trees growing in depauperate podzols amongst rhododendrons and mosses. Rain is far more common than blue skies and the temperature rarely deviates far from a balmy 15°C. But that isn’t what first drew me to the place nor is it why I keep going back. No, what I find most intriguing about this terrace of acidic, sandy soil and stunted vegetation is that it is perfectly tailored to the environmental requirements of a number of carnivorous plants.
Drosera rotundifolia is a native fixture of the Sphagnum hummocks that dot the landscape but has been joined in the past few decades by a number of other stalkers of legged protein. Beginning in the 1970s, a group of Bay Area horticulturalists began augmenting the native flora with carnivores of their choosing, transforming a portion of the pygmy forest into a bizarre sort of botanic garden. They toyed with plantings of Darlingtonia and Sarracenia alongside swales of Drosera binata, exotic Drosera slackii, and even Heliamphora.