A Real-Life Encounter with Flesh-Eating Plants


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My brother and I and my dog Molly had the experience of a lifetime during our trip to Bemidji, Minnesota, last summer. We saw a bog.

Bogs, I used to believe, were something that existed in Scotland, Ireland, and Middle Earth. They were places where only creatures like Gollum knew the way through, or where mad naturalists kept gigantic hounds with glowing teeth, and where the evilest of villains sank to their fates in bottomless mud.

So I was pretty excited to learn that there was a bog at Lake Bemidji State Park, just north of the town of Bemidji.

I was even more intrigued when our aunt and uncle informed us that there were, as my uncle put it, “flesh-eating plants” in the bog. Also known as carnivorous flowers.

Bug-eating plants, I used to believe, were something that existed in South America and other remote rain forests and perhaps in steamy greenhouses at academic institutions. They were the kind of plants kept as pets by mad scientists.

My uncle recommended that if we had time for only one stop, we should see Itasca State Park. My brother and I debated it out. We’d both seen Itasca before–the headwaters of the Mississippi–and we loved the place. But …

C’mon. A bog. With flesh-eating plants. How cool does it get?

So, yeah, the bog won out. Neither of us ever dreamed we could see one in person in northern Minnesota.

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Much as I liked being home schooled (I could plan all of my own extra-curricular activities, like … I don’t know … WRITING), I regret we didn’t go on more field trips or read more literature on my own home state and surrounding areas. I grew up thinking that my corner of the world–the upper Midwest–was boring. All the cool history happened in Boston, Massachusetts, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and all the amazing landscapes were in the Rocky Mountains and the forests of the Giant Sequoias.

I remember seeing the mammoth skeleton at the Heritage Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, and wondering what part of Canada or Siberia we had it shipped from. I was an adult when it finally dawned on me that that was a genuine North Dakota woolly mammoth. Why, he probably even wore bib overalls and a feed cap and drove a John Deere and said, “Ja, vell, I s’pose.”

Now, Bemidji, which I’ve visited many times, was already a land of wonders because it had lakes and trees and loons and black bears and moose.

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But a bog! Like I’ve said, these things are only found in Middle Earth.

My brother and Molly and I had to hike a mile through the state park to reach the fabled Bog Walk. When we got there, we found a wooden boardwalk wending through the trees.


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I think I expected the place to be putrid and bug-infested. Instead, we found the bog to be sunny and vibrant. The ground was damp all over, but every inch of ground was teaming with greenery, and here and there a vibrant bit of color.

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However, I did encounter a strange little creature who knew the secret paths through the Dead Marshes. Okay, it wasn’t Gollum. It was a little brown mouse who scampered away without the least fear of being sucked down alive into the swamp.

My brother and I kept our eyes peeled for flesh-eating plants. There were two varieties we had to watch out–ah, look for. It took us a while, but we finally found one.

The pitcher plant.

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At the base of this plant there grows a collection of unique leaves shaped to catch rain water. Insects are drawn in by the pleasant smell the plant produces–and drown in the pitcher. An interpretive sign said that the carnivorous plants in the bog resorted to fly catching to make up for the low nutrient levels in the bog.

Looking around at the abundance and variety of plants in the bog, I’d like to know what they call “good” nutrient levels.

I never really had that thought answered. Nor did my brother and I ever find the other bug-eater, the sundew. Lookling like a sea urchin, it was supposed to trap insects in a sticky residue. However, we did almost see a bug meet its death. It had landed on the lip of a pitcher plant and was thinking about going in. But it must have been suspicious. In the end, my brother and I ran out of time and didn’t wait to see whether or not the hapless bug would plunge to its death.

So maybe the Lake Bemidji State Park bog wasn’t as dramatic as the ones in The Lord of the Rings or The Hound of the Baskervilles, but it was still awesome to discover we didn’t have to go all the way to South America or Middle Earth to find one.

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8 thoughts on “A Real-Life Encounter with Flesh-Eating Plants

  1. Danielle,

    A great post.

    One word, though. Everybody thinks the place they grew up is boring. I dare say even the natives of Gettysburg, Boston, and other such places grew up thinking, “Yeah, whatever.”

    We have to move away to realize how great our home town is. I mean, I grew up in Michigan and have never been to Mackinac Island!

  2. Enchanting photo essay! Pretty pictures and I enjoyed all the literary references.

    When you mentioned expecting it to be bug-infested, I was reminded of my trip to the Everglades, as well as a camping trip in Texas. I think when there are enough bats and birds around, it can really keep the bugginess in check.

    Your banter above with Carrie reminds me that even though I’m a travel writer, my motto is that, “even home is a travel destination.” I truly delight in pointing out overlooked gems to locals. I think we tend to overlook a lot in life, and travel – even backyard travel – can be a great remedy for this!

    ~Tui, dropping by from #WWWblogs on Twitter!

    • Hey, Tui! Good for you for promoting those hidden gems in your own back yard. “Even home is a travel destination.” I like that! I’ll have to remember it. The more time I spend in my home state, the more I discover, and the more I love it!

  3. Hey Danielle, You and Molly have some nice outdoor weather forecasts for the up coming week. Any ideas on your next adventure?

    • Hi Larry!

      Molly says she wants to go out with the GoPro again and get some winter footage. And I’m hoping to do a winter sunset photo shoot. The question is when! I’m wrapping up edits on my first book and have a second one waiting in the wings. Molly and I are squeezing our daily walks in, but haven’t gone exploring in quite a while! Not that we don’t want to …


    • Yep! Pretty much! Molly and I are just headed out for a walk, since 0 degrees and a calm day is better than wind chills of 30 below!

      But I will be posting a new announcement here soon, Larry. 🙂

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