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 Sarracenia subsp. var.  American pitcher plant, Trumpet pitcher
Sarracenia rubra flower and pitcher
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Features: flowers
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Sarraceniaceae > Sarracenia var. ,

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Sarracenia (pronounced /ˌsærəˈsiːniə/ or /ˌsærəˈsɛniə/) is a genus comprising 8 to 11 species of North American pitcher plants. The genus belongs to the family Sarraceniaceae, which also contain the closely allied genera Darlingtonia and Heliamphora.

Sarracenia is a genus of carnivorous plants indigenous to the eastern seaboard, Texas, the Great Lakes area and southeastern Canada, with most species occurring only in the south-east United States (only S. purpurea occurs in cold-temperate regions). The plant's leaves have evolved into a funnel in order to trap insects, digesting their prey with proteases and other enzymes.

The insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the lip of pitchers, as well as a combination of color and scent. Slippery footing at the pitchers' rim, aided in at least one species by a narcotic drug lacing the nectar, causes insects to fall inside, where they die and are digested by the plant as a nutrient source.

Sarracenia are herbaceous perennial plants that grow from a subterranean rhizome, with many tubular pitcher-shaped leaves radiating out from the growing point, and then turning upwards with their trap openings facing the center of the crown. The trap is a vertical tube with a 'hood' (the operculum) extending over its entrance; and below it the top of the tube usually has a rolled lip (the peristome) which secretes nectar and scents. The hood itself frequently produces nectar too, but in lesser quantities.

Flowers are produced early in spring, with or slightly ahead of the first pitchers. They are held singly on long stems, generally well above the pitcher traps to avoid the trapping of potential pollinators. The flowers, which depending on species are 3-10 centimeters in diameter, are dramatic and have an elaborate design which prevents self-pollination. It consists of five sepals superintended by three bracts, numerous anthers, and an umbrella-like five-pointed style, over which five long yellow or red petals dangle. The whole flower is held upside-down, so that the umbrella-like style catches the pollen dropped by the anthers. The stigmas are located at the tips of the umbrella-like style. The primary pollinators are bees.

Pitcher production begins at the end of the flowering period in spring, and lasts until late autumn. At the end of autumn, the pitchers begin to wither and the plants produce non-carnivorous leaves called phyllodia, which play a role in the economics of carnivory in these species. Since the supply of insects during winter is decreased, and the onset of cold weather slows plant metabolism and other processes, putting energy into producing carnivorous leaves would be uneconomical for the plant.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Sarracenia (Dr. D. Sarrasin, of Quebec, a well-known physician and naturalist of his day, who sent S. purpurea to Tournefort nearly two centuries ago). Sarraceniaceae. Pitcher-plant. Indian Pitcher-plant. Side-saddle plant. Devil's Boots. Forefather's Cup. Huntsman's Cup. Trumpets. Watches. Pitcher-plants of swamps and savannas of the eastern United States, grown for their great oddity.

Acaulescent perennial herbs, with hollow radical lvs. usually provided with a lid or expanded blade, with a wing or keel on one side, variously colored: fl. single, terminating a naked scape, nodding, perfect, the parts mostly free and distinct; sepals and petals each 5, the latter incurved and deciduous, the sepals thick and persistent; bracts 3 beneath the calyx; stamens many; ovary globose, 5-celled, with 1 short style bearing a broadly expanded umbrella-like 5-rayed structure on the margin of which are borne the stigmatic surfaces: fr. a loculicidally 5-valved many-seeded dehiscent caps.

The family consists of three genera, Darlingtonia, Heliamphora, each with a single species, and Sarracenia, with seven species. The present genus is confined to North America, and almost wholly to the region east of the Mississippi. The most widely distributed species is S. purpurea, that extends from Florida and Alabama to Labrador and Minnesota. The others occur from southern Virginia to Florida and eastern Texas. All grow in moist or even in swampy savanna lands, in black sandy humus soil. The striking and beautiful pitchered leaves, as well as the large handsome flowers, early attracted the attention of gardeners, so long ago even as three centuries. But the apparent difficulty of cultivation long prevented their becoming popular objects. The careful observations of Macbride and Mellichamp in the southern states, and later of J. Hooker in England, clearly proved that the pitchered leaves are carnivorous, and that they show a remarkable microscopic structure in connection with this habit. Such has caused them to become popular objects of study in the past three decades. All are perennial rhizomatous plants, that produce three to eight pitchered leaves in spring, and in some species (S. Drummondii, S. psittacina) another set of these, or of flat green leaves (S. flava, S. Sledgei), in autumn. When grown in sunny situations, the pitchered leaves are often richly mottled with crimson or white; sometimes even the entire leaf may be of a dark crimson-purple hue, and correspondingly attractive. Minute honey-glands occur over the exterior, which forms therefore the "alluring surface." But these are specially abundant over the inner lid surface, where they are interspersed with down-directed hairs that incline insects to move on to the upper part of the tube. So this inner lid area has been termed the "attractive surface." The upper third to half of the tube is extremely smooth, and affords little foothold for insects, which often tumble from it into the pitcher cavity. So this has been called the "conducting surface." Beneath it in S. purpurea is a wide glandular surface that is absent in the other species, although in some of them glands scattered amongst fine hairs may occur. This area excretes a slightly viscous juice, which accumulates in the pitcher cavity, and which, as Mellichamp showed, readily wets and drowns any insect that falls into it. The lowest part of the pitcher in all species bears long delicate down-directed hairs that effectually prevent upward passage of insects, and so has been called the "detentive surface." The seven species vary in their carnivorous capacity, S. flava, S. Sledgei, and S. Drummondii being best; S. minor (S. variolaris), S. purpurea and S. rubra being rather poor; while S. psittacina, with its small flat pitchers, catches relatively few. The insect prey is not digested, but its dissolved material is either absorbed by the pitcher walls, or rotting inside the decaying leaves, affords valuable nitrogenous food for the roots. But an over-abundant animal diet often causes browning and decay of the leaves, so that some gardeners have advised plugging with cotton wadding.

The pendent flowers vary in size from an inch to 3 inches across, and in color from pale lemon-yellow, as in S. minor, to deep crimson, as in S. Drummondii and S. rubra. Each lasts from eight to twelve days. The five spreading sepals inside three small bracteoles are more or less petaloid; the petals are large pendent banners, the stamens are numerous and discharge abundant pollen which early falls into the umbrelloid cavity of the style. The pistil consists of a five-celled ovary that is covered outside by crystalline nectar- secreting warts, and within bears many ovules; a style that expands above into a large umbrelloid structure with five marginal notches, at the base of each of which is a minute dry peg-like stigma. The entire pistil after pollination matures in about three months into a many-seeded capsule. Cross-pollination seems always to be necessary for formation of good seeds. This act, as well as hybridization of distinct species, can readily be effected if pollen from one flower that has been wetted by nectar from its ovarian surface be placed on the dry stigma of a flower on another plant. All of the seven species cross readily with each other, alike in the wild state and under cultivation, if flowers mature about the same time. Thus at various localities in western Florida and in Alabama, where the tall handsome species S. flava, S. Drummondii, and S. Sledgei grow, the writer has found hybrids at times to be nearly as abundant as either parent. The numerous artificial hybrids between the species, that are themselves fertile and give rise to second hybrids in which the characters of at least three parents may be blended, also testify to ease of hybridization. The seeds germinate readily in about four weeks if sown with chopped sphagnum moss on a moist sandy muck. After production of the linear cotyledons, each seedling plant forms pitchered leaves that successively increase in size till good specific characters are shown by the second year.

The larvae of certain moths, flies, and beetles at times prey on the pitchers, while the rhizomes may be excavated and destroyed by still another type. Careful detection and destruction of the infested leaves or pieces of rhizome are recommended. Mosquitoes also may breed in the liquid of the pitchers of S. purpurea. All of the species succeed well under cultivation if grown in pots filled with fine sandy muck, from which, while decaying, humic acid constituents are evolved. Alkaline waters are always detrimental. In this respect they require the same treatment as do other swamp or semi-swamp plants of the eastern states. They should also have a bright sunny southeastern exposure, should be kept near the glass if grown in greenhouses, and the pots should stand permanently in about an inch of water. All can endure a temperature that approaches the freezing-point in winter.

The writer has monographed the genus in Engler's "Pflanzenreich," Vol. 4, No. 110 (hft. 34, 1908). A useful synopsis, along with some helpful figures, was given by Masters in 1881 (G.C. II. 15, 16. 1881).

The sarracenias have always excited the interest of the curious, and many of the native haunts have been depleted. In his "New England's Rarities," 1672, Josselyn gives a picture (Fig. 3549) of what he calls the "Hollow Leaved Lavender," and the following account of the plant we now call Sarracenia purpurea: It "is a Plant that grows in salt Marshes overgrown with Moss, with one straight stalk about the bigness of an Oat straw, better than a Cubit high; upon the top standeth one fantastical Flower, the Leaves grow close from the root, in shape like a Tankard, hollow, tough, and alwayes full of Water, the Root is made up of many small strings, growing only in the Moss, and not in the Earth, the whole Plant comes to its perfection in August, and then it has Leaves, Stalks, and Flowers as red as blood, excepting the Flower which hath some yellow admixt. I wonder where the knowledge of this Plant hath slept all this while, i. e. above Forty Years." CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



Flowers generally last about two weeks. At the end of the flowering period, the petals drop and the ovary, if pollinated, begins to swell. The seed forms in five lobes, with one lobe producing significantly smaller numbers of seeds than the other lobes.[1] On average, 300-600 seed are produced,[1] depending on species and pollination success. Seed takes five months to mature, at which point the seed pod turns brown and splits open, scattering seed. The seeds are 1.5-2 mm in length and have a rough, waxy coat which makes it hydrophobic, possibly for seed dispersal by flowing water. [2] Sarracenia seed requires a stratification period to germinate in large numbers. Plants grown from seed start producing functioning traps almost immediately, although they differ in morphology from adult traps for the first year or so, being simpler in structure. Plants require 3–5 years to reach maturity from seed.

Pests and diseases


For a complete list of subspecies, varieties, and common hybrids, please see the separate article List of Sarracenia species and hybrids.

The most commonly recognized species include:

Some common hybrids include:

Some common cultivars include:



  1. 1.0 1.1 Sarracenia flava Seed Data, Carnivorous Plant Newsletter, volume 24, 1995, pages 110–111}}

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