Index- plants in this Family
Sarraceniaceae / Pitcherplant
Pitcherplant (Sarracenia )
Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 60cm in height (24inches). Distingushed by a special leaf that forms a vase or "pitcher" shape which is use to trap insects.
Leaves: This plant has basal leaves only. Each leaf is entire.
Flowers: The flowers have 5 Regular Parts. They are red or purple in some and green or yellow in other species. Blooms first appear in late spring and continue into mid summer. Some species may bloom into early fall. The flowers hang at the end of a leafless stem and have three bracts, five sepals and five petals. The style is shaped like an inverted umbrella.
Habitat: In or near bogs or swamps or wet pinelands in soils leached of soluble nutrients.
Range: Throughout North America where the necessary habitat occurs.

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Habitat destruction in the form of draining wetlands has spelled the demise of Pitcher Plants from much of their former habitat. Adapted to compete with other plants in the poor soil conditions of wet or frequently flooded areas where much of the vital nutrition is leached out of the soil these plants gain nutrition by digesting insects they trap in their "pitchers". These are actually modified leaves not flowers, but, like most flowers are adapted to attract insects. Insects become trapped in the liquid in the pitcher where the soluble nutrients from the insects are absorbed by the plant.

The most common species is perhaps Sarracenia purpurea, Purple Pitcher Plant, AKA Flytrap. It is found in much of Canada but its range extends only as far south as Georgia. Most other species tend to be found in the deep south especially Florida and southern Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama. Some range as far north as North Carolina.

See also:
Yellow Pitcherplant, Sarracenia flava
Hooded Pitcherplant, Sarracenia minor
Parrot Pitcherplant, Sarracenia psittacina

Lore: Linnaeus may have named this plant for a Dr. Michel Sarrazin a Canadian physician who treated smallpox with the plant in the 1700's. There are several antidotal accounts of doctors and native healers using a root infusion of Sarracenia to cure smallpox which ravaged Native Americans who had no immunity to it when first exposed to it by white settlers. No one was able to establish the validity of this treatment and since smallpox has been practically eliminated world wide since 1978 the point is academic.(Erichsen- Brown)

It seems that the leaves may have been used by natives as drinking goblets and to hold items such as berries when in the woods.

Medical Uses: In addition to smallpox Native Americans and white doctors used a root tea to treat throat and lung problem such as spitting blood. It was given as an aid to childbirth and was considered a stimulant and a diuretic. There appears to be no evidence for any medical powers of the plant beyond that expected from its tannin content.

Similar Species: Other Pitcherplants on this site include:
Yellow Pitcherplant, Sarracenia flava
Hooded Pitcherplant, Sarracenia minor
Green Pitcherplant, Sarracenia oreophila
Parrot Pitcherplant, Sarracenia psittacina

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Hooded Pitcherplant (Sarracenia minor)

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Monocots / One Seed Leaf



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