PITCHERPLANT

Sarracenia purpurea

Pitcherplant Family [Sarraceniaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

status
statusZneophyte
 
flower
flower8red
 
flower
flower8orange
 
flower
flower8beetroot
 
inner
inner8green
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZtubular
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8sweet
sweet
sex
sexZbisexual
 

5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
The flowers are those nodding (drroping downwards) solitary things looking like street lights and are much higher than the pitchers at their feet.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
Flowers on long leafless stalks and stand about 60cm high. They have 5 purple sepals and 5 purple petals. The pitchers surrounding the stems near ground-level are hollow tubes with a large banner atop.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
Some pitchers are red to purple whilst others are a pale green with red veins.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
The pitchers, or which there are several (maybe about 8) per flowering stem, are modified basal leaves and are 10 to 20cm high (up to 30cm long), curved at the bottom, not quite upright, and with a curved cowl or banner at the top.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
The hoods of the pitchers usually have a striking red and yellow pattern on them, perhaps to attract insects by sight (as well as by smell). The pitcher is half-filled with water in which the attracted flies and other insects like ants, spiders and moths are induced to drown. But despite the low catchment percentage (about 1% of insects) the pitchers soon fill up with drowning and dead insects on warm days.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
Only second-year pitcher leaves can produce the necessary enzymes (such hydrolase and protease enzymes) to digest their drowned prey. Digestion of the insects is aided and abetted by the community of bacteria which live within the pitchers.


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
The flap of pitchers is just a banner for visual attraction (and maybe a very slippy landing site too?) - it does not fold over as a lid to cover the opening of the tube when an insect is caught (unlike some other species of Sarracenia plants which do).


5th July 2017, Bere Heath, Wareham Forest, Dorset. Photo: © Jill Stevens
The flowers which are about 4 to 5cm across tower above the pitchers. The petals are the 5 red-brown and at the top. Much shorter sepals (actually bracteoles) [your Author cannot make any out on these specimens] are just above where the stem joins. Hung below the 5 petals is a yellowish-green 5-lobed disc about 3cm across which is the style and is shaped like an upward curling bowl with 5 cut lobes around the edge and is hung from a single style from the ovary. The stamens, if the reader can make any out, are numerous. Between the petals is a bulging yellow-green ovary which has 5 compartments with many ovules within each compartment.

[The interloping yellow flower is the flowering spike of Bog Asphodel]


Not to be semantically confused with : Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) [a tree with similar name]

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : The umbrella-like flower at the top and the tube-like leaves with a hood gathered around beneath them.

Pitcherplant is not native to this country, it is a neophyte which is often purposely planted in wet peat bogs. It can slowly spread.

This particular Pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea) smells sweet and produces a number of volatile compounds: 8.1% 2-Nonen-1-ol, 10.9% 2-Decen-1-ol, 9.7% of an unidentified ester, 11.7% α-Pinene, 6.3% 6-Methyl-5-Hepten-2-one, 4.1% Limonene, 23.5% Z-β-Ocimene, 2.1% Dimethyl Disulfide ( aka DMDS).

It is thought that some of these compounds, in particular Z-β-Ocimene and Limonene serve to attract nectar feeding insects in a variety of carnivorous plants. Likewise 2-Nonen-1-ol and 2-Decen-1-ol are known to attract a wide range of differing insect species from differing taxa, including Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and Diptera, Coleoptera.

Dimethyl Disulfide, on the other hand, is a common indicator of protein decay and is present only after it has trapped insects and starts to digest them. The 2-Nonen-1-ol and 2-Decen-1-ol are also released during protein degradation. Blowflies (aka Bluebottles) are frequently trapped in the pitchers of Pitcherplants.

It is said that the Pitcherplant Sarracenia purpurea obtains most of its nutrients by prey capture and digestion, but this is a very inefficient process with less that 1% of the visiting insects being captured. Nevetheless, the number of dead insects being digested for sustenance within the open tube is high.


  Sarracenia purpurea  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Sarraceniaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pitcherplant family8Sarraceniaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Sarracenia
Sarracenia
(Pitcherplant)

PITCHERPLANT

Sarracenia purpurea

Pitcherplant Family [Sarraceniaceae]