Saturday, June 18, 2011

Purple Pitcher Plant Pitchers

The Purple Pitcher Plant has amazing leaves.

Sarracenia purpurea, the Purple Pitcher Plant
The leaves function as pitfall traps for insects.  They supply the "meat" for this carnivorous bog plant.
 The leaves are specialized for this trapping function in various ways. 

   First, the leaves are hollow in order to hold water. In the photo below, something had nibbled away parts of the hoods of these pitchers so now the water is more visible.
  The insects are drowned in this water and processed and utilized by various organisms, including the pitcher plant.
   Secondly, the pitcher's traps are baited by nectaries near the lip of the hood.  Also the plant has color patterns and odors to help attract insects.

 Thirdly, the pitchers have various means of causing the insects to loose their footing.
   The downward pointing hairs and the slick surfaces of the pitcher's inner surface funnel the insects toward their watery death.
   Here is a cross-section of a pitcher showing the hair-lined hood on the right and the dark muck of leftover insect parts an the left. 

You can see some lighter colored larvae of the pitcher plant midge in the dark muck.  These thrive there on the drowned insect parts despite the fact that the pitcher plant's water is lethal to many other insects
   I have a web page with a few more details on the processing of the insects that transpires in the pitcher's water as well as more pictures and information on the Purple Pitcher Plant.
   I also posted on this blog about the Purple Pitcher Plant.


  1. Anonymous6/30/2011

    this is cool. but am i supposed to put water in my pitcher plant if it is grown inside

  2. Anonymous,
    I never raised any pitcher plants indoors. Outdoors the rain water can fill the pitchers, so it would seem logical to add some water to simulate the natural environment.
    I would add though, that there are other species of pitcher plants which may function differently than the purple pitcher plant.