This rugged, swampy Florida state park is home to many different species of endangered carnivorous pitcher plants. Thousands of these strange specimens lurk within the marshland, waiting to prey upon any unsuspecting insects.
The park gets its name from actual tar kilns that were built in the 19th century to process tar from the area’s yellow pine trees. The processed tar was turned into naval stores which were used in the manufacturing of both soap and wooden ships. Visitors can still spot the occasional “cat face” (v-shaped notch or scar) in some of the older pines that show where workers placed ceramic jars to collect the sap.
Today the Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is one of the best places in the state to find pitcher plants. It’s home to Florida’s largest cluster of white-top pitcher plants, a rare carnivorous plant found only between the Mississippi and Apalachicola Rivers along the Gulf Coast.
You can also spot the sweet pitcherplant and Chapman’s butterwort waiting to snack on a bug or two. The plants, which look beautiful and harmless, use bright colors and sweet, aromatic nectar to lure their prey to their deaths.
In addition to the carnivorous plants, the park is also home to about 100 species of plants and animals. Migratory birds flock to the wet, marshy landscape. Other animals, like alligator snapping turtles, bobcats, raccoons, and opossum, live within the park as well.
A roughly half-mile-long boardwalk winds atop parts of the wetlands. You can also wander along one of the nature trails, or find a secluded spot to sit down and have a picnic.