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Name derivation:

Common name ‘pitcher plant’.


Sarracenia Linnaeus; only 8 species descriptions (and innumerable hybrids) are accepted taxonomically.

Order Ericales;  Family Serraceniaceae


Leaves form a cavity (‘pitcher’) for trapping insects, and a rain-shielding hood.

Perfect (bisexual) flowers develop in the Spring of the year that are showy, 3-10 cm diameter, with five brightly colored sepals and five petals, generally crimson red (S. purpurea), white, or yellow (other species).  Carpels with a shield-shaped style remain long after the sepals and petals abscise.  Self pollination does not occur, partly because of the flower morphology, so outcrossing by insect (bees) pollination is required for sexual reproduction.  Various species hybridize successfully.

Asexual reproduction occurs from rhizomes that produce new plants.


Carnivory is an adaptation for collecting nutrients from prey, in this case flies and other insects.  The pitcher-shaped leaves attract prey with color, scent, and nectar, some fill with rainwater, and the slippery rim and downward-facing leaf hairs on the interior of the trap cause the prey to fall into the water trap where they meet their fate and decompose (feeding the plant).  Cutinous exoskeletons are indigestible and may entirely fill the pitcher through time.

Similar genera:



North America.  Typically found in bogs and other acidic wet habitats with low supply of phosphorus and nitrogen where they outcompete non-carnivorous plants.

The genus is protected because of its vulnerability to upland drainage.

Surprisingly Serracenia is absent from Cook (1974), Fassett (1940), Godfrey and Wooten (1979), and Sculthorpe (1967); but is covered in Crow and Hellquist (2006).




Cook, C.D.K.  1974.  Water plants of the world.  Dr. W. Junk b.v., Publishers, The Hague (561 pp).

Crow, G.E. and C.B. Hellquist  2006.  Aquatic and wetland plants of northeastern North America.  A revised and enlarged edition of Norman C. Fassett;s A Manual of Aquatic Plants.  University of Wisconsin Press.

Fassett, N.C.  1940.  A manual of aquatic plants.  University of Wisconsin Press (405 pp).

Godfrey, R.K. and J.W. Wooten  1979.  Aquatic and wetland plants of southeastern United States.  University of Georgia Press (712 pp).

Sculthorpe, C.D.  1967.  The biology of aquatic vascular plants.  Edward Arnold, Publishers, London (610 pp).