All hail breaks loose for the Brigante
family as --
Cobras Are Found
in Oregon, USA!
by Dave Brigante
Click images to enlarge
The day started out as one might expect on the southern Oregon
coast, coastal mist, fog on the shorelines and sunny blue skies
looking inland towards the mountains. While vacationing, taking
daily events in stride helps to make your experience that much
more enjoyable. On this particular day we planned to take a hike
out into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area and seek out the amazing
carnivorous plants called "cobra lilies" (Darlingtonia
californica) that we heard about at the local ranger station.
We packed up our truck with lunches and our two dogs, wearing
our late summer casual clothes that seemed to be appropriate
for where we were headed. Since it was late September and fall
was in the air, a little more preparation would have been a good
idea. We were naive!
Pond of Nuphar polysephalum
Our inland journey began by traveling 20-30 miles (32-48 kilometers)
of gravel road to the trailhead. The beautiful cobra lilies are
native to northern California and southwestern Oregon, but are
not so prevalent in the wild as to be easy to find. The wilderness
area has a vast array of unique and protected plant species besides
the cobra lilies making the scenery especially diverse.
As the morning hours began to disappear we started to notice
more clouds than sun on the horizon, but we were determined to
continue on our adventure. The hike to the lilies is about three
miles. Along the way we passed a native spatterdock (Nuphar
We went down by the Smith River which runs through southern
Oregon and crosses over the border into California, taking in
the magnificent coastal redwood groves that make the area so
well known, and back up again
Heffie cools off in the spatterdocks
When we reached a precipice and began to descend downward towards
the bogs, the weather began to change and not for the better.
We decided that it might be best for just one of the dogs, Heffie,
and me to continue down the trail and to leave Davia and our
other dog Gertrude to wait for us to get back.
When we started down the old creek bed, turned trail, and saw
the bogs, it was quite a sight to behold. Literally thousands
of cobra lilies were everywhere. There are primarily two large
stands perched on the top of a high mountain ridge overlooking
distant the forest. The two bog areas have hidden hillside springs
flowing through them to keep the soil appropriately cool and
Cobra lilies prefer to have their roots stay much cooler than
their upper plant parts, so those mountain springs are ideal.
The bogs are out in full sun at an elevation that gets snow most
winters, but doesn't get so cold as to kill off our Zone 7 serpents.
They prefer to have a cold dormancy period of three to five months,
returning with fresh new growth each spring.
As far as growing them in a controlled environment, they are
reputed to be one of the most difficult carnivorous plants to
keep in cultivation. The effort it would require take to frequently
flush cool water through their root systems is most likely not
something most growers would be willing to do. After they leave
their exacting natural conditions it can be quite a trick to
duplicate them, unless of course you have a cool mountain stream
running through your property. At the very least, running cool
water through your moist soil garden on a regular basis would
be a must.
Heffie and I were totally immersed in our own little cobra lily
world, but I noticed that once again the sky was turning extremely
dark. At first a slight sprinkle fell, thankfully cooling us
off after our push to the bogs. Then all hail broke loose. Once
it began to hail in earnest it created the most unusual weather-related
experience I had ever been involved with. The sound of the hail
crystals hitting the cobra hoods was almost deafening. We didn't
stick around for nature's symphony to reach its crescendo --
we got out of there.
While ascending out of the quagmire, I came to realize that cobra
lilies are very tough plants. The hail onslaught had not affected
them in the least. The two of us, on the other hand, were racing
against mother nature and let's just say we were fighting an
uphill battle. When we reached our better halves we still had
a couple of miles to go to reach the truck. It wasn't long after
we had gotten on our way again that the heavy rains caught up
with us. Our light clothing was soon soaked through, yet we found
ourselves being coaxed up and over the hills by our two faithful
canine companions. This was the day we had a lesson in what having
hypothermia can be like and just how quickly your body's temperature
can be altered.
The grips we had on our dogs leashes became more clenched
while our path became more creek-like. Those must have been two
of the longest miles I have ever spent hiking in my life. It
did come to an end -- the truck was in sight. After we reached
our safe haven, I spent what seemed like an eternity trying to
get my chilly contorted hands to work well enough to get the
keys out of my pocket. Once in the truck and after being as unprepared
as we were, we felt pretty lucky to be out of that weather.
I should mention in conclusion that here in Oregon there is
a much simpler way to see the amazing cobra lilies. The northern-most
natural stand of these beauties in the continental United States
is located along the coastal highway route just outside of the
town of Florence. It is called the Darlingtonia Botanical Wayside,
has ample parking, paved roadways, and man-made wooden pathways
for walking over the bog.
After having survived our somewhat unsettling experience, the
wayside bogs looked very enticing, but in the long run I wouldn't
trade the memories we garnered from our little family outing
for the world.