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|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL|
|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.
Fruit is a round, 5-sectioned capsule 3/8 to ¾ inch in diameter, containing numerous brown seeds.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
on: 2012-06-23 16:52:28
Large group blooming in Mic Mac Lake. Breath-taking!
on: 2014-06-30 09:05:43
Blooming in a bog on a small lake near Deer Lake in northeast Itasca County.
on: 2014-08-13 16:09:14
there are a few large plants at the Quaking Bog in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis
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.
on: 2015-04-21 04:10:06
my brother Terry and I would go fishing on Cranberry Lake find picture plants are all the time it's very marshy around the lake
on: 2015-07-03 22:58:00
In a poor fen
on: 2019-06-08 16:02:19
Try this lovely short day trip in the BWCA. Enter at Sawbill, and from Sawbill lake an easy 13 rod (200ft) portage to the Kelso river. North through Kelso lake, the Kelso river continues at the north end of the lake keep going and it winds though navigable river bog with at least a half acre of dense stands of these plants, more than I have seen anywhere else.
on: 2019-07-28 21:52:10
I have them growing in a small sphagnum bog on my property. There are quite a few... at least 10 "clutches", might be more. I've never walked the entire area. Very beautiful ..
on: 2019-10-05 22:53:34
My inquisitive 9 year old granddaughter went exploring near our hunting shack yesterday. She ventured into a huge, amazing bog. Suddenly she excitedly began hollering for me to come and see something she said was "So beautiful!". Not having waterproof footwear on, I asked her what it was. Well, I quickly realized she had discovered purple pitcher plants! Even though I have spent a great deal of time in the north woods in my lifetime, I have only seen them once before. They were everywhere! And yes, I did get soaked feet but it was so worth it!
on: 2019-10-14 10:32:24
Just found my first wild pitchers at Alfred's Pond on the Superior Hiking Trail near Schroeder. Great bog action on this section; so strange to be hiking between a bog and a high overlook of Lake Superior.
on: 2020-04-09 20:52:54
Saw a few in a black spruce bog near hanson lake up on the Echo trail near ELy
on: 2020-07-21 14:04:10
Lots of them on the Bog Walk
on: 2021-07-18 07:35:05
There are tons at the end of the bog walk in the Big Bog Recreation Area. :)
on: 2021-12-21 10:59:24
large colony on my dad's property in Sandstone area, large tamerack swamp. also utricularia there.