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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin


(Sarracenia purpurea L.)

Pitcher plant
Pitcher plant



FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A perennial herb that usually grows in a clump-like fashion. The leaves are hollow, pitcher-shaped, broadly winged, growing to a height of 1-2 dm. and a width of 1-5 cm. Leaves are green to red to yellowish and heavily veined. The interior lips of the leaves have stiff, downfacing hairs used to help trap insects and similar organisms. The flowers are borne on a long, leafless stalk (3-5 dm. tall) and are mostly dark red to purple. In flower from May to August.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Pitcher plant is found in bogs and some calcareous fens. It prefers sunny habitats, but does survive more shaded conditions as succession advances. The pitcher-shaped leaves of this carnivorous species collect water, and the stiff, downfacing hairs make it easier for an insect or other organism to travel downward rather than upward. The hairs abruptly stop at the "pitcher" where the plant tissue becomes very slippery. Once inside, the organism may not be able to crawl back up the "pitcher" wall, and slips into the water. "Digestion" of the organism provides needed nutrients for the plant.

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); and Voss (1985).

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