SARRACENIACEAE (Pitcher Plant) - Wildflowers of the Escambia

 

 White Top Pitcher Plant
(Sarracenia leucophylla)

 Crimson Pitcher Plant
(S. leucophylla)
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All pitcher plants are carnivorous; eating insects that invade the plant. While they do have a root system, it serves only to sturdy the plant and doesn't take anything from the soil, but manufactures its own food stuff, fertilizing the ground around it so to feed new life that emerges from dropped seeds.

White Top Pitcher Plant and Crimson Pitcher Plant are so closely related it may be difficult to distinguish one from the other. Since both plants have similar characteristics it generally comes down to preferred habitat; Crimson preferring direct sun while White Top likes a little shade. The Latin description means simply that they have a powdery residue on the trumpet giving the impression of being anemic. In Louisiana the scientific description might be drummondii indicating the scientist who first identified and described the plant. Some botanists make a strong case that White Top should be classified as a different species.

Look closely at the images and you'll clearly see that the White Top bears a network of greenish veins at the trumpet tip while Crimson bears a reddish network of veins. As you view the images keep in mind that you are not looking at a flower but the leaf, which has no stalk but arises from an underground stem. The tiny leaf then fuses its edges forming a seam and creating a tube. The "pitcher" then catches and holds water. Small insects go into the pitcher and are unable to escape. The plant then releases an enzyme which dissolves the insect and another meal of raw meat is enjoyed.


 Northern Pitcher Plant
(Sarracenia purpurea)

 Yellow Pitcher Plant
(S. alata)
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Northern Pitcher Plant is also known as Purple Pitcher Plant or Sidesaddle Plant. This is the provincial flower of Newfoundland, Canada. It's Latin describes it as "strange and purple." The Northern Pitcher Plant is found more frequently in the northern states, thus considered rare in the southern states. Its preferred habitat is peat bogs, thin moist and rich woods and savannas. The species is not protected because it's not considered indigenous to the region. According to Bell and Taylor in Florida Wildflowers and Roadside Plants it is "Rare and fortunately rather inconspicuous, along the margins of bogs and low woods on the Coastal Plain from Mississippi to the Carolinas and known in Florida from a few localities in the two or three westernmost counties." In Alabama's Escambia the plant is found in similar habitats but is more widespread and may be found throughout the state but in very small colonies.

Yellow Pitcher Plant is also rare in this area; confined strictly to coastal bogs from western Florida and Alabama to southeastern Texas. This is an exceptionally tall plant; slender to the point of defying laws of nature as the base is nearly pencil sized yet maintains its balance during our harsh hurricane and flood seasons.

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Green Spotted Pitcher Plant (S. flava)
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The Green Spotted Pitcher Plant is also known as Green Trumpet and Trumpet Leaf Pitcher Plant. The plant is listed on the Federal list of threatened species. This is primarily a Florida species but is known in cypress bogs throughout the Escambia region. This tall pitcher plant may reach heights upward to 36 inches. Simply because it's found in large colonies in the bogs and swamps of the Escambia does not mean it's widespread but is merely being compressed into a more confined area. Indeed, the plant is making a valiant last stand. The yellow flower appears in early spring and have a musty odor.

 Parrot Pitcher Plant
(S. psittacina)

 Parrot Pitcher Plant
(S. psittacina)
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Note the two distinct variations; Parrot on the left is decumbent while Parrot on the right is upright. While most wildflower societies recognize both varieties there are a few authorities who deny that the coastal Parrot has a sub-species bearing prostrate pitchers. Until the sub-species is recognized both plants will carry the same Latin description. Depending on the location along the Escambia region, a bog may produce the upright variety or the reclining, but no location is known to produce both.

Parrot Pitcher Plant received its unusual name due to the expanded shape of the pitcher and the beak-like hood that arches over the pitcher opening.

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