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Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia) Sarracenia Thumbnail Sarracenia Thumbnail Sarracenia Thumbnail


Introduction

Only a small handfull of species exist of this type of CF. However, there are a large amount of hybrids and sub-species.
They very from the very small (less than 3 inches high) to the magestic (3 feet high).
Most are basically green, however some types are yellow, purple or even partly white (Sarracenia Leucophylla). The Sarracenia Flava is named after the Latin for yellow.

How it works

The trap itself is a passive trap which employs no moving parts to catch it's prey. At the top of the pitcher plant is a lid which is fixed and cannot move. The insect lands on this lid and is drawn into the throat of the plant often by the use of nectar or coloured veins which run along the inside of the lid, down into the throat.
Onch inside the throat, the insect is trapped by longer and longer downward pointing hairs which stop the insect from returning the way it came. Further down still, the insect reaches a slippery area which contains even more nectar glands.
Finally, the insect reaches the digestive are of the stem, where enzymes are produced. The insect is then digested.

The Lifecycle of the Pitcher Plant

This plant too has a dormant period during the winter. Some of the more hardy species such as S. Flava produce a series of 'mutated' stems which don't grow to full height. These stems are designed to protect the plant against frost. Note that excessive periods of temperatures above about 60 C can interrupt it's dormant cycle and can lead to poor results the following year.
Come the spring, the plant will produce flowers, as with most other carnivorous plants, these flowers are on tall stems at or above the height of the pitchers themselves. Colours can be yellow, cream, orange, pink or red depending on the species. There are some flowers which give off an attractive smell, whilst others are more unusual.
Reproduction of the plant can be achieved through seed or the splitting of the rhizome at the base of the plant.

How and where to grow them

  • Most of the Sarracenia types are grown in peat / sphagnum moss mixture and perhaps some sand mixed in.
  • Only repot the plant in spring, repotting out of season can do the plant damage.
  • Stand the pot in soft water, keeping the compost moist all the time. Reduce the water slightly during the winter.
  • Reproduction can be achieved by the carefull splitting of the rhizome at the base of the plant. Also making cuts in the rhizome can encourage further shoots to emerge from the cuts.
  • Sarracenia flava can withstand some frosts, although the leaves may fall away. However, most of the more tender Sarracenias cannot withstand cold temperatures.
  • The brighter the light that Sarracenia is exposed to, the more vivid the colours will be.



What I am growing

I have four species of Sarracenia,

  • S. flava, a tall pitcher plant - about 14 inches tall!. This has done very well this year, it's about 4 years old and has flowered two years running now. The flower is bright yellow but has a slight wiff of rotting meat! At the time of writing (Sept '97) it is starting to produce some of the 'strap' type of traps in readyness for the winter.
    Although the plant was named as S. flava I must admit to never having seen the yellow tints on the end of the traps. Mine are green right through!
  • S. leucophylla x Popei, this is another pitcher plant about 10 inches tall, but this one is topped with white. It also has red veins around the throat. (click on the thumbnail at the top for a piccy). This plant is slow growing, I find, in it's place on a south facing window. It's growing from a rhizome, and in the two years that I've had it, it has grown exactly 4 traps! 2 each year, 1 from each end of the rhizome! This is despite the mass of small 'traps to be' which are at the base of each large trap. On the S. flava these 'traps to be' soon develop!
  • S. hybride, is a new one for me this year, it's a half size pitcher, where the lid of the trap doesn't quite cover over the entrance to the trap. It has the mose delightfull red throats though and is growing freely. It's about 7 inches tall now.
  • S. psittacina is also shown in the thumbnails. It's a low growing sarracenia, with horizontal traps about 4 inches long. It has started to split apart into two plants, so I am planning to lift and devide it. This poor plant never seems to catch anything, at least from what I can see! However, it's at least 3 years old, so I suppose it must be doing fine!

I had a two plants flower this year (s.flava and s.hybride). So I let the flowers dry out and have collected what I think are seeds. These seeds are tiny but not as small as the Drosera seeds. I have a terrarium (an old fish tank actually!) that's full of spaghnum moss compost from the garden centre, so I've sprinkled the seeds onto the soil. I'll keep it damp and covered. It's now 2 weeks since I did this, and already I can see some sign on growth. However, it's still too small to see what they are yet.


Written by SteveC