Sarracenia purpurea (Purple Pitcher Plant)
|Also known as:||Northern Pitcher Plant|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; peat bogs|
|Bloom season:||May - August|
|Plant height:||1 to 2 feet|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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. While most references recognize multiple subspecies, the specific number and names are not exactly universal. Be that as it may, Flora of North America lists 2 subspecies: subsp. purpurea is considered the northern subspecies, with subsp. venosa found in the southeastern states.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken at Savanna Portage State Park, along County Road 7 near Crosby-Manitou State Park
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?