Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge

We had met a friend while doing bird photography and he told us about a place not to far away that was great for photography, called Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. We did a little research and found out that it had one of our bucket items, the Pitcher Plants. We knew we wanted to go then.

The Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge consists of about 47,000 acres and is located in McBee South Carolina. The National Wildlife Refuge has about 30 man-made lakes and ponds and 1,200 acres of grassland and field habitat. The refuge is divided up by Recreation areas and the lakes are named the pools are identified by letters, like Pool J, Pool K along with the lakes like Honker's Lake, Oxpen Lake, Lake Bee and Martins Lake.

Lake Bee Recreation area has sheltered picnic tables and restrooms. Lake Bee was pretty much drained when we were there for maintenance of some sorts. It does contain some Carnivorous plants such as the Purple Pitcher Plants and Sundew at one of the overlooks at Lake Bee. We took Highway 145 to Wildlife Drive and headed towards the Oxpen Recreation area and Oxpen Loop Road. This is where you will find lots of Pitcher Plants. The Pitcher Plants are located on Oxpen 1 Lake in the seepage area on the North Bank.

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge has basically 3 types of areas, the boggy seepage areas, the longleaf pine forest, and open field areas. These 3 provide for good habitat for many plants, animals, insects, amphibians, reptiles.

We know there are birds in the refuge we have not gotten photos of ever before, so they are on our list. The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), Chuck-will's-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis), Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus). We have had these on our list of birds to photograph. While we were there we saw Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Great White Egrets, Eastern Kingbirds, Belted King Fisher, Common Yellow Throat, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Buntings, just to mention a few. Although we do a lot of bird photography we also like shooting Macro Photography and our goal at Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge was to get some Flesh-eating Carnivorous plants, with an appetite for meat.

So what makes a Carnivorous plant actually Carnivorous? A Carnivorous plant needs five characteristics to be considered “carnivorous”: 1) to attract prey; 2) capture prey; 3) kill prey; 4) digest prey; 5) absorb the prey’s nutrients.

Carnivorous plants are typically located in swampy environments. Carnivorous plants use insects solely to get access to the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in their bodies. These Pitcher plants and Sundew plants do not grow by eating insects, they still grow by photosynthesis, but because swamps are usually very acidic soil with little or no nitrogen or phosphorus, they need these nutrients from another source rather than the soils in which they grow. So these Pitcher plants and Sundew plants trap their prey and then rely on bacterial decomposition or enzyme action to break down the insect into its mineral components which are absorbed into the leaf, they need their vitamins too just like we do.

At Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge there are about 5 species of Carnivorous plants:

  1. Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) - Pitfall Trap. Probably the most widely distributed pitcher plant in North America.
  2. Yellow Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia flava) - Pitfall Trap. Also called the Trumpet Pitcher Plant, Yellow Pitcher Plant is the most prolific and prevalent of the savanna carnivorous plants. You will find it in standing water and seepage bogs. The species is known for growing in dense groups together.
  3. Sweet Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia rubra) - Pitfall Trap. Flower fragrance is strong and smells like a rose. Leaves are green with occasional red/purple veins. Hood not as pronounced as the Yellow Pitcher plant. Hood and leaf can resemble a snake standing erect.
  4. Sundew (Drosera intermedia) - Adhesive Trap. One of the longest stemmed sundews. You will find this in extremely wet habitat. The plant is most robust on the margins of stream, ponds, and other very wet areas.
  5. Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia variety capillaris) - Adhesive Trap. Also called Drosera capillaris. Grows in sandy/peaty soils and on edges of shallow bodies of water. The most prevalent sundew in the Southeast, this plant is often found where other carnivorous species do not grow. 

So if you're looking for a fun adventure and are near Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Reserve, stop by and get a closeup look at some Flesh-eating Carnivorous plant, with an appetite for meat.