At the far end of the park, almost all the way back up Parish Parkway to the gatehouse on Gause Blvd. is the Pine Savannah Boardwalk. It’s also the northern end of Camp Salmen’s trail system and makes a quarter mile loop. This is land where there was actually open pasture fifty years ago has since been allowed to grow back into woods. Our idea was to recreate a type of forest that was prevalent on the Northshore – Upland Longleaf Pine Savannah. We did this by taking out a considerable portion of the trees to let in more sunshine. We also did some careful burning and planted longleaf pine.
The magnificent Longleaf was once the prevalent tree in these parts. It was the result of the plant community sorting itself out over millions of years. Now Slash Pine is everywhere because they grow faster and therefore, insure a profit for the landowner in his or her lifetime.
The pine savannah is an open-woodland – plenty of space between the trees with grass, ferns and shrubs covering the ground in between. Periodic fires that swept through this forest type once sustained its ecology. This we know from the layers of burnt material buried over the centuries in local soils and the fact that most of the plants that evolved here thrive with fire. We’ve short-circuited the whole system by building suburbs and farms on top of it and then becoming rather strict about burning.
Peppered here and there in this ecological assemblage are clumps of a vicious animal eater, the carnivorous Pitcher Plant. This curiosity of the Plant Kingdom, a phylum that is used to being bullied and eaten by animals, has turned the tables. It lures anything with legs that can get inside by making interesting odors. An overly curious and greedy creature finds a slippery slope and almost certain death by drowning in the rainwater on the bottom. The plant is more than happy to absorb its rotting carcass.
The pitcher part of the Pitcher plant into which overly curious insects fall to their deaths.