Plant Common Name
Collectively called "pitcher plants", these terrestrial North American natives can be found in bogs and other wetlands from the Northwest Territories of Canada down to Florida. There are approximately nine non-hybrid species of Sarracenia and around 15 hybrid species. In recent years, many new and exciting cultivars have been developed. All species are insectivorous, meaning they kill and digest insects, and have wonderfully interesting pitchers and umbrella-like flowers.
The pitchers of Sarracenia are variable in size, shape and color, but all are upright and have pronounced lips that produce sweet, viscous secretions that attract insect prey. When insects land on the lip rims, they fall down into the pitcher traps, which are filled with secretions and lined with downward-facing hairs that keep prey from escaping. Some species also emit narcotic chemicals to further stupefy insects. Once inside the pitchers, the insects drown and are broken down and digested for their nutritive value. Like all plants, Sarracenia get all needed energy from the sun, but they grow in boggy, nutrient-poor soils, so it's the essential nutrients the insects provide, not food.
Bloom time is variable, depending on species and geography, but all produce pendulous, umbrella-like blooms with three conspicuous bracts as well as five showy petals and sepals. Flower color ranges from red and purple to yellow and greenish. Each bloom is borne singly on a long, slender, leafless scape. The flowers are fragrant, but not pleasantly so, and pollinated by insects. After pollination, the bracts persist until the seeds within are fully developed. This can take as long as six months.
Grow pitcher plants in moist, boggy soils. Generally partial sun is preferred, though many species grow wonderfully in full. These are certainly specialty plants for the garden. They grow wonderfully in "bog containers" if provided clean rainwater regularly.