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Insects, beware!

Eileen JoyceCheryl Belcher, executive director of the Nevada County Land Trust, cuts open the leaf of a pitcher plant to check for dead insects Friday at a fen near Grouse Ridge.
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It eats bugs, smells like dead meat, and lives in a soggy home.

Still, the California pitcher plant has friends who spent about $30,000 to insure that the insect-eating plant will always have a good home in Nevada County.

About four years ago, plant lovers rallied around a 10-acre patch of pitcher plants on Grouse Ridge, roughly 20 miles northeast of Nevada City.



They feared proposed logging would upset the delicate ecology of the spring-fed fen, or wetland, in which the plants live.

The predicament made the pages of the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter, and letters to the property’s owners poured in from as far away as England.




Why did plant lovers care?

For one thing, the California pitcher plant is rare in the Sierra, found only in Nevada and Plumas counties.

Emitting a sickly sweet smell, the plant attracts insects down its tube-shaped leaves. Hair-like follicles inside the leaves make it easy for prey to slide down, but impossible for them to climb out. The plant digests insects to get nutrients lacking in the wet soil.

But green flowers are what really makes Nevada County’s pitcher plants unique.

“Normally, the plant has a red flower. Plant people have not found this (green-flowered variety) anyplace else on earth,” said Cheryl Belcher, executive director of the Nevada County Land Trust.

Belcher’s group and the Truckee-Donner Land Trust paid almost $30,000 in 1998 to the property’s owners to get a conservation easement on the 10-acre parcel, which stopped logging and prevented future development.

Belcher inspected the site Friday. Annual inspections are required under conservation easements.


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