Sarracenia oreophila

Updated June 6, 2012 @ 10:35am Vancouver time

Bryant wrote today’s entry:

I would like to thank Hugh and Carol Nourse for this wonderful photo of Sarracenia oreophila, showing both the flower and the pitcher (via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Pitcher plants, especially members of Sarracenia, are among my favourite living organisms due their unique and highly evolved physiology. Sarracenia oreophila is native to a handful of sites in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina (and extirpated from Tennessee) (distribution map).

Sarracenia oreophila has pitchers that emerge in the early spring and can grow up to 75cm high. The pitchers are mostly a bright green with mild purple venation; the operculum (or flap) at the top of the pitcher is immobile and arches over the pitcher to prevent excess rainwater from filling the trap. The pitchers of Sarracenia oreophila wither and dry out during the hottest months of summer, while the non-pitcher form leaves known as phyllogia phyllodia (see comments below) or “winter leaves” remain photosynthetically active throughout the year. The seeds of Sarracenia oreophila require contact with bare/open ground to germinate, which makes this species largely dependent on fire to propagate.

Like all many (see comments below) carnivorous pitcher plants, Sarracenia oreophila has highly modified leaves that form tall tubes that fill partially with rainwater. This provides the basic structure of a pitfall trap for insects, which are lured into the pitcher by a scent trail that is emitted from the flap above the opening to the pitcher. The inside of the pitcher is lined with very small and stiff downward facing hairs, which further direct insects downward. Once down inside the pitcher, the prey encounters a zone of epicuticular waxes and glands which prevent insects from gaining traction and exiting the trap. Once the insect has made contact with the water at the base of the pitcher, it is usually game over. Most Sarracenia species excrete a “wetting agent” into the water, which helps it stick to the wings and legs of insects making it nearly impossible to escape back up and out of the pitcher.

Once drowned in the fluid, the insects are then broken down and digested with the aid of enzymes, bacteria and fungi. Some pitcher plants have specialized glands that secrete enzymes into the fluid and others rely on bacteria and fungi that are introduced by prey into the aquatic environment within the pitcher. Some prey provide further digestive agents to the water, such as the formic acid found in ants. These acids can lower the pH of the water inside the pitcher to increase to rate of decay and digestion of prey insects.

Sarracenia oreophila is the most rare and endangered member of its genus, and it is listed as imperilled G2/N2 (Globally/Nationally). Threats to Sarracenia oreophila mainly come from development, fire suppression, encroachment, hydrological and soil disturbances. This photo was taken at the Reed Branch Wet Meadow Preserve in Georgia, which happens to be the last remaining site for this species in that state.

Sarracenia oreophila

18 responses to “Sarracenia oreophila”

  1. Andrew Broome

    Umm… there are some factual and typographical errors in this write-up. Someone might want to proof-read it…

  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Andrew, I’m the “lazy” editor (still on vacation) — I’ve fixed a few typos, but I’m not sure where the factual errors are. Please point them out and we’ll correct.

  3. Andrew Broome

    I wasn’t suggesting anyone was being lazy. Enjoy your vacation.
    > Like all carnivorous pitcher plants, Sarracenia oreophila has
    > highly modified leaves that form tall tubes that fill partially
    > with rainwater.
    Not all carnivorous pitcher plants form tall tubes (S. psittacina and the various S. purpurea subspecies, let alone their hybrids or some of the small forms of S. minor for example. Not to mention most of the Heliamphora spp. We wont even go near Nepenthes… :)).
    They don’t fill with rainwater but may have some secreted fluid in the bottom of the pitcher. Insect death in the tall Sarracenia species is generally considered to be by starvation rather than drowning.
    The winter leaves are ‘phyllodia’ rather than ‘phyllogia’.
    Sorry to be a pain.

  4. nina-rosa

    I’ve always been afraid of carnivorous plants…so still and yet quite lethal……………………what a hunters !

  5. ann smith

    How are the plants in the two pictures related–the flower and the pitcher?

  6. natalie barringer

    Good to get the facts straight,but the entry is so interesting and a beautiful specimen to boot. These carnivorous plants are such a wonder of nature. A wonder in that,it surely shows a Being higher than us mere mortals that created such a plant with an intricate and highly developed method of getting it’s nourishment. Amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your photos and information.

  7. Daniel Mosquin

    It has been proven that evolution provides a more than satisfactory explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, in all of its forms and processes.
    Ann, the flower is the flower of this pitcher plant species, while the pitcher is a modified leaf of this pitcher plant species. They look like they are from different individual plants in this instance, though.

  8. Susan Heron

    Are you sure about the 75 cm (over 29 in.)? That seems awfully tall.

  9. Mary

    Thank you for sharing a wonderful image and info, while on your vacation. The full moon must account for the comments?!

  10. phillip

    …Little Shop of Horrors…great writeup..nice corrections..

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    i wonder if evolution will ever come up with a pitcher plant
    that likes to eat bon bons the way i do flies are yucky
    it is indeed the full of the moon phillip is so right about the little shop
    thank you daniel have fun

  12. Daniel Mosquin

    As a follow-up, I should mention to Andrew that you’re not being a pain. It is important for the work-study students to realize how quickly an error will be pointed out if they are not accurate with their facts or precise with their language, and sometimes it is better if it is demonstrated to them (and demonstrated that the editor (me) is himself imperfect). I’m sure Bryant will be triple-checking his work from now on!

  13. Paul Epstein

    Hi all, I’m always interested in etymologies as well as the botany itself. Not being a botanist, I try to guess what sort of organism (plant, fungus) I’ll see based on the Latin nomenclature. I have to say that I thought “oreo” reminded me of, well, oreos. And that I thought philia was a Greek root for love. I imagined some kind of Sarracen Cookie Monster, perhaps an aggressive fuzzy blue fungus that grows on oreos. Obviously I was wrong. I’m curious tho – what DOES the oreo- root mean, and are there other spp. that have this in their name?
    Paul Epstein
    Piedmont, CA
    ps – Thanks for running this page. It is truly amazing.
    pps – You can see why, although I was a Classics major, I did not make a career of translating ancient texts; my speculations were sometimes poetic but entirely off target.

  14. Emma

    Is it always important to deliver a “correction” when someone expresses a belief in something that can’t be “proven” or with which you disagree? I believe fairies have been mentioned in the comments on occasion without rebuttal. Differing perspectives need not be taken as offensive when surely no offense was intended.

  15. Rebecca

    Emma: Daniel’s response to Natalie was an important reminder that science relies on facts and evidence, not mythology or wishful thinking. Botany is a science, and this is a science-based website. Evolution is supported by mountains of evidence from multiple disciplines that cannot be refuted by people’s antiquated and ill-informed ideas of an imaginary being in the sky making pretty things for all of us to enjoy. It is important for rational, well-educated people to point out fallacies that interfere with intellectual progress, whether the fallacy is belief in a supreme creator or a belief that leprechauns make flowers via magic.

  16. J. Martin

    …captured that great sun light!

  17. elizabeth a airhart

    i think some of our comments are a form of verbal fun and by
    people who it would seem read a lot-we may have our private
    thoughts about it all began its really just a differnce of opinon
    daniel hasn’t thrown the fairys off the page there is hope emma

  18. Daniel Mosquin

    Paul, the Greek oreos means mountain, so this is a mountain-loving species. A search for oreophila mountain-loving turns up several other species that share this name.

Leave a Reply