Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pitcher Plant

One late September day, we were exploring the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I stepped off the trail and walked into a bog area to check out the native species.

There at my feet was this amazing Pitcher Plant. More specifically, the Purple Pitcher Plant.
It was getting deep into the dusk, so I had to step up the ISO for this photo. I wish I had more to show you, but this is all I had the time or the light for.

Living leaves often turn quite red in the fall.

Notice the flared-out lip, a sort of landing platform, with nectar glands and conspicuous reddish veins. See the fine, downward-pointing hairs. These contain a numbing secretion that make an insect's escape very difficult. Below that is a smooth-walled, slippery constriction, a further impediment to escape.

Prey fall into the pitcher and drown in rainwater that collects in the base of each leaf.

Prey includes flies, ants, spiders and moths, which are digested by the invertebrate community in the water: mosquitoes and midges.

Protists, rotifers (one-celled animals), bacteria, and possibly plant enzymes then decompose trapped insects, and convert their tissues into nitrogen and other nutrients, which are absorbed by the plant. This absorption occurs in special cells at the bottom of the pitcher.

In the photo below, the stalk is called a scape, and supports the nodding flower. Most of the plant's reproduction actually occurs by continuous budding from the perennial rhizome (root).

 This one was growing in an acidic peat bog. It is the only member of this genus that inhabits cold, temperate climates.

Light surface fires in bogs actually have a rejuvinating effect on the growth of this Pitcher Plant.

This is the floral emblem of the Canadian provinces Newfoundland and Labrador. 
It has been introduced into bogs in parts of Ireland where it has proliferated.
Purposeful and pretty; the Purple Pitcher Plant.
Sarracenia purpurea
Sarracenia purpurea range


(Click on Photos to enlarge) 
Photo Location:  Taquamenon Falls State Park,  (Taquamenon)  Upper Peninsula, (U P) Michigan
Fieldbook of Natural History - E. Laurence Palmer     c 1949
The Book of Swamp and Bog - John Eastman     c  1995
Wikepedia -  range map