Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Sarracenia purpurea L.
SARRACENIACEAE (Pitcher Plant Family)
EtymologySarracenia is named for Michel Sarrasin de l'Etang (1659-1734), a French botanist who first sent pitcher plants to Europe from Quebec; purpurea is Latin for purple.
Synonyms (Common Name)Purple Pitcher Plant, Northern Pitcher Plant, Huntsman's Cup, Sidesaddle Flower, Indian Dipper
DescriptionThree families of "carnivorous" plants are found in New England's nutrient-impoverished bogs and peatlands; they obtain nitrogen and other nutrients by trapping and digesting insects and other small organisms. The pitcher plant is an insectivorous, evergreen, perennial herb. Its modified leaves form a water-filled pitcher, drowning insects that are lured into it. The leaves consist of five insect-trapping sections. The top of the leaf, or mouth of the pitcher, forms a hood that attracts insects by means of nectar glands and bright red venation. Next, the inside rim is lined with stiff, downward-pointing hairs and exudes a secretion that numbs the insect, so that climbing out is all but impossible. The third section is a slippery slide, where plant cells stick to the insects' legs, propelling them into the watery pitcher, where digestive enzymes and bacteria dissolve the soft parts of the insects which are absorbed into the plant. Indigestible parts accumulate in the last section -- a long, narrow stalk at the base of the leaves, which also directs nutrients to the roots and flower. Several species of insects and arthropods actually inhabit the pitcher plant without being digested.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Heightleaves 4-10 inches; flowers 1-2 feet
LeavesHollow, pitcher-shaped, keeled on one side, with a flared hood at the top, 4-10" long; semi-prostrate basal rosette; green, streaked with purplish-red veins, downward-pointing bristles inside; bright red to reddish-purple in fall and winter; usually half-filled with water or ice.
Flower/InflorescenceMaroon to purplish-red, 2" in diameter, somewhat globe-shaped; the 5 petals curve inward around a greenish-yellow, umbrella-shaped structure formed by the 5 spreading sepals; solitary, nodding on a stalk 10-20" tall.
Flowering PeriodJune
FruitCapsule, nearly round, 5-valved, contains many seeds.
HabitatBogs, acidic peatlands.
RangeLabrador and Newfoundland to Saskatchewan, south to Florida and Louisiana.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett