Sarracenia purpurea (Purple Pitcher Plant)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Pitcher Plant
Genus:Sarracenia
Family:Sarraceniaceae (Pitcher-plant)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; peat bogs
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:1 to 2 feet

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] A single nodding flower, 1 to 1½ inches in depth and up to 2½ inches wide, forms at the end of long slender stalk. Five broad spreading sepals, tinged with reds and purple, form a waxy, rigid umbrella-like structure over flower. Five bright red, oval petals, incurved at the base over the ovary, hang only briefly before shedding.

[stamens surrounding the ovary] Yellow stamens also briefly surround the base of ovary. A slender column (the style) extends from the round ovary and flattens out into 5 fused rays forming a 5 angled yellowish green umbrella-like structure that curves back over the center of the flower. The petals are very fleeting, but the rest of the ridgid flower structure persists all summer into fall and the early next growing season.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal

[photo of leaves] Highly modified leaves form an ascending, closed tubular structure, 6 to 8 inches long, that fills with rainwater and digestive enzymes. The tube is narrow at the base, growing larger, rounded with a flat fused wing the length of the upper outside surface.

[close up of leaf mouth] The tip of the leaf flares out into a lip flanking roughly three quarters of the outside of the open tube and is densely covered with stiff downward angled hairs. Leaves are typically green with purple veining on the hair-covered surface of the lip, and will turn a dark red purple throughout at end of growing season. There are no stems other than the long, naked flower stalk, which also turns from green to dark red purple.

Notes:

Almost every school kid has heard about this wonderful insect eating (carnivorous) plant. Hollywood even makes movies out of plants like these but few people have ever seen one in the wild. Far more common than people realize, they are hard to not run into if you get yourself out on to a floating sphagnum bog most anywhere in northeastern Minnesota. You will get wet, you may even fall through the floating mat. You will experience sweat, mosquitoes, deerflies and blackflies. Cool, huh? Warner Nature Center in Washington County has them along their bog boardwalk.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Must have book for 2014: Pollinators of Native Plants

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at Savanna Portage State Park, along County Road 7 near Crosby-Manitou State Park

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Todd - southern Aitkin County
on: 2010-06-03 23:23:14

Stumbled upon this plant in a swamp while leech trapping, along with many Stemless Lady Slippers and a flower I did not recognize. All are beautiful plants.

Posted by: Mike - about 30 miles from Grand Rapids
on: 2011-07-14 11:38:44

I was delighted to spot quite a few of these plants while exploring a small lake which I now understand was a sphagum bog. Lots of squishy ground and little "islands" of bog material floating throughout the bog. Anyway, I'm glad to learn the plant is quite common because it is beautiful and its habitat is fragile and presumbably unusual.

Posted by: Kelly - st. croix valley
on: 2011-09-28 03:41:57

We stayed at North Shore cabins, Solbakken, this spring May 2011... and found some growing near a tiny stream that fed into Lake Superior. They were teeny tiny alpine pitcher plants and it was our herbalist friend, Dina Goodwill, who spotted them. About the same time the ferns were unfernling up there, near Lutsen. My son now has learned more about them and we want to care for some at home in a terrarium. It was that rocky north shore landscape, with moss growing near the tiny stream.

Posted by: Vickie - Kelso river
on: 2012-05-28 10:03:27

we saw these while canoeing between Sawbill and Kelso lake in a boggy area. I first noticed the flowers and could not get close enough to see the leaves. This was in 2008.

Posted by: Mary - Tettegouche State Park
on: 2012-06-23 16:52:28

Large group blooming in Mic Mac Lake. Breath-taking!

Posted by: Jill - northeast Itasca County
on: 2014-06-30 09:05:43

Blooming in a bog on a small lake near Deer Lake in northeast Itasca County.

Posted by: Mathew - minneapolis
on: 2014-08-13 16:09:14

there are a few large plants at the Quaking Bog in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis

Posted by: John - Saint Louis county
on: 2014-08-17 21:27:44

Found them right next to the pictographs in north hegman lake. There were some very large ones and some sun dews too.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.