Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant (aka. Northern Pitcher Plant (1))
Sarracenia purpurea

PitcherPlant 3 copy PitcherPlant2 copy PitcherPlant acadiabog

This carnivorous Northern Pitcher Plant was found in a sphagnum moss filled bog at Acadia National Park. Pitcher Plants have 2-3 inch maroon flowers from May-August (1) that open so that they look like they are hanging from their leafless (1) 12-24″ tall stem (1). The flowers are composed of 5 petals and 4-5 sepals that look like additional petals (2). The leaves radiate out from a central point and are fused into a pitcher shape. The field guides I consulted (1,2) described the leaves as green with red veins and showed pictures illustrating this, but I found these specimens pictured here to have striking maroon pitchers with orange-yellow spots on the edges. Insects may find themselves trapped inside the pitcher (cavity made by the petioles [leaf stalk]) due to inflexible hairs that project downwards. There is usually a watery liquid inside the pitcher (2). Some sources say that once trapped inside the insect is killed by a narcotic (1) and decomposed by mutualistic bacteria, producing nitrogen products that the pitcher plant can use(1). Other sources describe the insects simply drowning in water, unable to climb out due to the bristles that line the inside of the leaf (2). This allows the pitcher plant to live in nutrient/nitrogen poor bog ecosystems. Pitcher plants have several symbiotic relationships with arthropods. Some commensalistic insect larvae (mosquitoes and flesh flies) reside inside the pitcher plant — eating other insects caught in the pitcher, without being killed by the narcotic. Other mutualistic moth larva (caterpillars) feed on the pitcher plant, but pollinate the flowers when they are adult moths (1).


1. Reader’s Digest (1982). North American Wildlife. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association

2. Alden, P., Cassie, B. (1998). National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, inc..



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