Yesterday I headed out to the Sierras with a list of places to see... One of them I knew had Darlingtonia based on some quick Google research, and a few other places within that same ultramafic rock formation that looked like they might be the correct habitat as well.
I went to the known place first so I could get all excited about the next places I was checking out and get an idea of the correct habitat, and sure enough, they were everywhere! Growing in a variety of conditions as well - from pools of standing water in deep forest, to small creeks running through sparse pines, to damp, full-sun meadows where the plants were struggling to keep their "heads" above the grass!
It was very cool to see mature plants in person and to touch their three-foot, softball-sized leaves - they feel like plastic! One thing I've always read about them is that they produce copious amounts of nectar on their "tongues"... I felt the tongues on a few dozen plants of differing sizes in a variety of places, and they were all completely dry. Does this have to do with the time of year? Is it just that particular population? The tongues on my plant at home (also derived from a Sierra population) don't seem to produce any nectar either, but my plant is still very small.
Some other observations... Most of the plants are plain green with perhaps just a small bit of red on the tongue, even in full sunlight. The plants growing in shade had no red at all. I was quite shocked when I noticed this, since I'm used to seeing captive plants that have large amounts of red on their leaves. I realized this is because when people collect a plant from the population, they most likely choose the prettiest one (i.e., the one with the most red) instead of the greener ones that can be considered "typical" for the population. I did see two clumps of plants (out of thousands) that had as much red as most captive plants, growing in full sunlight next to completely green plants.
Lastly, after visiting these plants in the wild, I now understand the significance of the cold roots issue - wow, the ground was cold there! The water appeared to be fresh out the ground as it made its way down the bog, and even the shallow water in full sunlight could not have been above 42-45 degrees. Even where the ground was just damp rather than under water, I estimate that it could not have been above the low 50s (and very I'm good at estimating temperatures by hand, goes along with finding snakes). Nightly air temperatures drop to about 40 degrees in that location this time of year, though when I was there in the day it was about 70 degrees.
After photographing those plants, I went to the other locations I had marked. No luck at any of them. When I got there I could see why, there was always something "wrong" with those places that wasn't apparent from Google Earth... Incorrect type of rock, water moving too fast, water not moving at all, too dry, etc. I guess it's just a matter at being able to perfect your skills at finding good places using satellite imagery. There will be a next time, and hopefully next time I'll find some more plants!
"Typical" plants, growing in full sun, with little to no red:
"Captive-type" plants, also growing in full sun, with lots of red:
Completely green plants growing in deep forest, which don't receive anything more than dappled sunlight during the day: