Pitcher Plant – Sarracenia purpurea

Pitcher Plant with flower
Pitcher Plant with flower

“The season brimmed all other things up
Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant’s cup.”

-James Russell Lowell
(1819-1891)

 

This carnivorous plant is native to the entire Eastern seaboard of the US, through the Great Lakes, and southeastern Canada. It resides in bogs, on savannas and flat woods preferring the wettest areas. It is considered carnivorous (not insectivorous) because it consumes more than insects….it’s diet includes isopods (crustaceans including wood lice & pillbugs), mites, spiders and small frogs. This meat laden diet is not 100% necessary to its survival, but it will make the plant more vigorous, larger and allow it to produce more flowers.

 

At one time it was believed that venereal diseases could be treated with the exudates of carnivorous plants (Sundew, Venus flytraps, as well as Pitcher Plants). The belief was based on the Doctrine of Signatures, not on reality (by not being scientifically unprovable or even having anecdotal evidence). The leaves that formed the pitchers would fill with water and decaying animal matter and stink badly. It was thought that this resembled “bubos” (diseased and inflamed lymph nodes) which it would therefore treat!

Eve’s Cup derives from an old legend that Adam & Eve received cups of ambrosia from God, but Eve thought it smelled too strong, & diluted hers with berry juice, or possibly with squeezings of the Forbidden Fruit, which was sexual knowledge.

This species is the floral emblem of the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador.

One final note…this plant is listed as Endangered or Threatened in many areas of the US…so leave it where you find it, take pictures home with you, NOT the plant.

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