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Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that capture prey with their pitcher-like traps (pitfall traps). These pitchers are filled with digestive enzymes and bacteria that can dissolve the prey and provide the plants with their much-needed minerals. The following list shows two types of well-known pitcher plants. The pitcher plants in the Huntington conservatory are mostly Sarracenia.
Famliy Sarraceniaceae (the New World pitcher plants) Nepenthaceae (the Old World pitcher plants)
Genus Heliamphora Sarracenia Californian only one: Nepenthes
Sun Pitcher Trumpet Pitcheror
American Pitcher Plant
Cobra Lily or
California Pitcher Plant
Tropical Pitcher Plant or Monkey Cup


Trapping system:

The careful design of a pitcher is to lure its prey and drown it. Pitcher plant traps have many of the same attracting elements as flowers: they use nectar, coloration, smell and even window-like transparent areas (fenestrations) on their leaves to attract their prey. The slippery entrance and the downward hairs on the inside wall of the pitchers make sure the prey will fall to the bottom to be digested. Digestion is heavily dependent on externally-introduced bacteria.
Operculum:    hood or lid, attract prey;
                       prevent rain from filling the pitcher.
Peristome:    lip; produce nectar; slippery.

The inner surface of a pitcher is divided into four zones:
Zone 1:     hood area. Attractive zone with nectar glands, prominent UV-absorbing patterns and downward-pointing hairs.
Zone 2:     around peristome. Abundant nectar-producing glands.
Zone 3:     halfway inside a pitcher. Smooth waxy wall.
Zone 4:     digestive and absorptive zone with downward-pointing hairs, digestive enzymes and bacteria.

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Each pitcher plant flower has five sepals and 5 petals. It has 50–80 stamens and a five-carpellate compound ovary. It has a unique five-pointed umbrella-like style: each of the five points ends in a stigma. This unique design separating stigma and stamens encourages cross-pollination. Pitcher plants are pollinated by insects, predominantly bees.

Diagram: pitcher plant flower at different stages
As with other carnivorous plants, pitcher plant flowers have a long scape (flowering stem) that makes it safe for the pollinators to visit. Pitcher plants flowers usually blossom before the new pitchers come out. This separation in timing further ensures the safety of their pollinators,

Flowering season in the bog.
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Different pitcher plants in the bog.

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