Facts about Sarracenia Carnivorous Plants

If you live near or frequent wilderness areas in Texas, the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes area, chances are you have encountered the Sarracenia carnivorous plants.  These unique species are endemic in these places as well as in southeastern Canada. Eight to eleven species comprise the genus Sarracenia, which are commonly called the North American pitcher plants.

As Sarracenia plants could not draw enough soil nutrients from their natural habitat, the species have evolved funnel-shaped or pitcher-like leaves designed to trap and then digest insects with enzymes.  These plants secrete a nectar-like substance at the rim of their pitcher-shaped leaves to attract the insects, which are also drawn by the Sarracenia’s scent and color.  Insects setting foot on the pitchers’ rims fall inside the leaves’ funnel because the rims are slippery.

In at least one Sarracenia species, the nectar it produces is also laced with a narcotic-like drug to help trap the insects inside the plants’ pitchers. Once trapped in the plant’s pitcher, retreat is made difficult, if not impossible, by hairs pointing downwards.  At the bottom of the tube is a pool with digestive enzymes and liquid agents where the insects drown and are digested as a source of nutrient for the Sarracenia.

The environmentalist in you might stir a clamor for the conservation of Sarracenia as it has been estimated that almost 98% of the species’ habitat has already been compromised in the Southeastern USA as a result of urban development.  Other major threats to the species include runoff of agricultural herbicides, fire suppression, drainage of habitat and poaching for the plant trade.

One way to have fun while helping a potentially endangered carnivorous plant is to learn everything you can about them.  Click here for a great deal on a fantastic book about carnivorous plants (including Sarracenia pitcher plants).  Or, you could grow Sarracenia plants at home, either by seed or by starting with an inexpensive mature plant.  Click here for Sarracenia plants and seeds.

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