Only in Oregon: See Insect Eating Plants at Darlingtonia Wayside

Only in Oregon - Darlingtonia State Natural Site

Darlingtonia State Natural Site in OregonJust off the Oregon Coast Highway north of Florence is a small, 18-acre wayside dedicated to the protection of a single plant species.  Darlingtonia State Natural Site is a State Park property that preserves the cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), a carniverous plant.

The cobra lily, also known as the California pitcher plant, thrives in bogs and marshes.  It's called "cobra lily" because its tubular leaves resemble a striking cobra.

To quote the State Park's website: What visitors see in this little garden of multi-colored horrors (for insects), is a plant with yellowish green hooded leaves that form erect, 10 to 20-inch-high hollow tubes.

Cobra lilies at Darlingtonia WaysideOn top, the leaves are often purplish to reddish mottled with transparent areas. A hidden opening into the stalk is bordered by a large, green, mustache-shaped appendage beneath the curved hood of the leaf. Nectar inside the plant's hidden opening attracts the insects. Once inside, an insect becomes confused by the transparent areas that appear like exits.

It's all "downhill" for the insect from that point as it eventually drops into the lower part of the tube, is trapped by downward-pointed hairs and falls into a pool of water at the bottom of the stalk. Bacteria in the water decompose it into nitrogen that is then absorbed by the plant.

Boardwalk trail at Darlingtonia State Natural Site

A short YouTube video shows how the cobra lily traps its prey.  The videographer/narrator does a good job of showing and explaining how an insect gets trapped from the insect's point of view.

A boardwalk trail leads visitors to a viewing area with a large sign that provides information about this unique plant.  Picnic tables and a restroom are near the parking area, so this is a good spot to have a picnic lunch and rest before resuming your journey up or down the Oregon Coast.

There is no cost to visit and I always find it a nice, brief respite before taking guests to the scenic Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.

To get to this wayside, which is north of Florence, turn east onto Mercer Lake Road.  This map provides exact directions.  The insects might want to avoid this place, but you certainly won't.

Darlingtonia State Natural Site, Oregon

Learn about more places and events in western Oregon by visiting the Facebook page "365 and More Things To Do in Lane County, Oregon".

Rick Obst is an Arizona native who moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2005 and fell in love with the verdant Pacific Northwest.  He enjoys photography and discovering the many people, places, and events that make this part of the world so special.

To learn more about Eugene, Lane County, and western Oregon, visit 365 and More Things to do in Lane County, Oregon on Facebook.  You'll see hundreds of pictures and links to discover the beauty and attractions of this special area.


Comment balloon 9 commentsRetired from ActiveRain • September 15 2013 01:22PM


Amazing!  What an interesting and beautiful place, fantastic article. I'd really love to go there.

Posted by Jean Jannopoulo, Robert Slack LLC (Love where you live) about 7 years ago

Good morning Rick....mmmm Cobra Lily - very interesting.  Great idea to imbed the video and the photos were excellent.  I've spent a lot of time in Oregon (my daughter played soccer for Williamette University for 4 years) but we never heard about Darlingtonia State Natural Site.  Have a great day.

Posted by Jack Tenold, Specializing in Reverse Mortgages (Jack Tenold LLC) about 7 years ago

Rick, these pitcher plants would only thrive if there were plenty of insects. Guess nature has its way of finding balance WITHOUT pesticides!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) about 7 years ago

Great local post - I also have a 365 things to do facebook page for my market area (Arlington, Virginia).  Your photos on your facebook site are fabulous - did you take them yourself?  I tend to use links that pull up their photos, not mine, but might have to rethink that after seeing your shots! Keep up the good work.

Posted by Elizabeth Bouchard, Associate Broker in Northern Virginia (Long & Foster Realtors) about 7 years ago

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment about this special place in Lane County, Oregon. 

Elizabeth, Almost all of the photos on my Facebook page are mine, except in a few instances where I share a photo of a place that I haven't visited yet but feel people should know about.  I enjoy photography and exploring the many beautiful places I'm fortunate enough to live near.

Posted by Retired from ActiveRain about 7 years ago

Feed me  seymour! I want to see these guys in person!

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) about 7 years ago

By the way, you may have the nicest html background on AR!


Love and light,


Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) about 7 years ago

Pretty amazing plant. Reminds me of the reality series about serial killing wives, girlfriends called "Poison Ivy" "Black Widows" etc that they finally catch when their third relationship ends with the same use of creative antifreeze outside a vehicle's cooling system. You find something that works, you stay with it I guess. Until the jig is up.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) about 7 years ago
Posted by Brian Sharkey, SharkeyRE - #SouthFloridaBroker (SharkeyRE LLC) about 7 years ago