Found in northern sphagnum bogs, the purple pitcher plant is one of North America's few carnivorous plants.
"The flower resembles a thick, flat disc ringed with dark, maroon petals. The plants are most noted, however, for the hollow, gibbous leaves, or pitchers, that give the plant its name.
The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
At least two insects also use the pitchers as a breeding location. A community of microorganisms eventually develops in the water at the base of the pitchers. These microorganisms live on the nutrients of the decaying insects, and may actually increase the nutrients available to the plant by further digesting its prey. The microorganisms are themselves prey to at least two species of carnivorous insects – the larvae of a mosquito and the larvae of a midge – which complete their life cycles in the pitchers. For some reason, the digestive enzymes secreted by the plant affect neither species."
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.