Sarracenia purpurea (Purple Pitcher Plant)

Plant Info
Also known as: Northern Pitcher Plant
Family:Sarraceniaceae (Pitcher-plant)
Life cycle:perennial
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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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 Leaf type: simple

[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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] 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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More photos

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?

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.

Posted by: Tim - around Cranberry Lake in Aiken County
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

Posted by: Anthony - Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
on: 2015-07-03 22:58:00

In a poor fen

Posted by: Jared M Frandson - BWCA
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.

Posted by: David - Grand Rapids
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 ..

Posted by: Terry - Near Effie
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!

Posted by: Kim Tri - Duluth
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.

Posted by: Gage Kriese - Ely
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

Posted by: LeAnn - Lake Bemidji State Park
on: 2020-07-21 14:04:10

Lots of them on the Bog Walk

Posted by: Calandria Olson - Waskish
on: 2021-07-18 07:35:05

There are tons at the end of the bog walk in the Big Bog Recreation Area. :)

Posted by: Andy Olson - Pine County
on: 2021-12-21 10:59:24

large colony on my dad's property in Sandstone area, large tamerack swamp. also utricularia there.

Posted by: Cathy - St. Louis County
on: 2023-06-11 21:01:18

The pitcher plants in the bog on my property haven't bloomed in many years. What might have changed?

Posted by: Tom Martin - Lino Lakes
on: 2024-06-01 21:27:53

Found tall plant off Rice Creek Nature Trail. A way from water but growing near downed (old) tree in shady area of firm, moist soil. Took photo. Gorgeous specimen.

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