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Purple pitcher plant
Flowering Sarracenia purpurea, Newfoundland
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Sarraceniaceae
Genus: Sarracenia
Species: S. purpurea
Binomial name
Sarracenia purpurea
Sarracenia purpurea range

Sarracenia purpurea — commonly known as the purple pitcher plant or side-saddle flower — is a carnivorous plant in the family Sarraceniaceae. Its range includes almost the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, the Great Lakes, and south eastern Canada, making it the most common and broadly distributed pitcher plant, as well as the only member of the genus that inhabits cold temperate climates. The species is the floral emblem of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.



S. purpurea, Temagami, Ontario

Like other species of Sarracenia, S. purpurea obtains most of its nutrients through prey capture.[1] However, prey acquisition is said to be inefficient, with less than 1% of the visiting prey captured within the pitcher.[2] Even so, anecdotal evidence by growers often shows that pitchers quickly fill up with prey during the warm summer months. Prey fall into the pitcher and drown in the rainwater that collects in the base of each leaf. Prey items such as flies, ants, spiders, and even moths, are then digested by an invertebrate community, made up mostly by the mosquito Wyeomyia smithii and the midge Metriocnemus knabi. Protists, rotifers (including Habrotrocha rosa), and bacteria form the base of inquiline food web that shreds and mineralizes available prey, making nutrients available to the plant.[3][4][5] New pitcher leaves do produce digestive enzymes such as hydrolases and proteases, but as the individual leaves get older into their second year, digestion of prey material is aided by the community of bacteria that live within the pitchers.[6][7]


The species is further divided into two subspecies, S. purpurea subsp. purpurea and S. purpurea subsp. venosa. The former is found from New Jersey north and requires a winter dormancy, while the latter is found from New Jersey south and tolerates warmer temperatures.

In 1999, Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii was described as a species of its own: Sarracenia rosea. This re-ranking has been debated among carnivorous plant enthusiasts since then, but further morphological evidence has supported the split.[8] The following species and infraspecific taxa are usually recognized:

  • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea
    • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea f. heterophylla
    • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea f. ruplicola (invalid)
  • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa
    • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii [=S. rosea]
      • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii f. luteola[9]
    • Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. montana



A Sphagnum peat bog with Sarracenia purpurea.
  1. ^ Wakefield AE, Gotelli NJ, Wittman SE, Ellison AM (2005). "Prey addition alters nutrient stoichiometry of the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea" (abstract). Ecology 86: 1737–1743. doi:10.1890/04-1673. 
  2. ^ Newell SJ, Nastase AJ (1998). "Efficiency of nutrient capture by Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae), the Northern Pitcher Plant". American Journal of Botany 85 (1): 88–91. doi:10.2307/2446558.;2-Y. 
  3. ^ Heard SB (1994). "Pitcher plant midges and mosquitoes: a processing chain commensalism" (abstract). Ecology 75: 1647–1660. doi:10.2307/1939625. 
  4. ^ Mouquet, N., Daufresne, T., Gray, S. M., and Miller, T. E. (2008). Modelling the relationship between a pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and its phytotelma community: mutualism or parasitism? Functional Ecology, 22: 728-737.
  5. ^ Peterson, C. N., Day, S., Wolfe, B. E., Ellison, A. M., Kolter, R., and Pringle, A. (2008). A keystone predator controls bacterial diversity in the pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) microecosystem. Environmental Microbiology, 10(9): 2257-2266.
  6. ^ Rice, Barry. (2007). About Sarracenia purpurea, the purple pitcher plant. The Carnivorous Plant FAQ. Accessed online: 21 June 2008.
  7. ^ Gallie, D. R. and Chang, S.-C. (1997). Signal transduction in the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea. Plant Physiology, 115: 1461-1471.
  8. ^ Ellison, A. M., Buckley, H. L., Miller, T. E., and Gotelli, N. J. (2004). Morphological variation in Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae): geographic, environmental, and taxonomic correlates. American Journal of Botany, 91(11): 1930-1935.
  9. ^ Hanrahan, B. & J. Miller 1998. History of Discovery: Yellow Flowered Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp. venosa (Raf.) Wherry var. burkii. Carnivorous Plant Newsletter 27(1): 14–17.

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Sarracenia purpurea


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Ordo: Unassigned Asterids
Ordo: Ericales
Familia: Sarraceniaceae
Species: Sarracenia purpurea


Sarracenia purpurea L.


  • McPherson, S. 2007. Pitcher Plants of the Americas. - The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.
  • Schnell, D. E. 1976. Carnivorous Plants of the United States and Canada. - John F. Blair.
  • Miller, K. M. and Kneitel, J. M. 2005. Inquiline communities in pitcher plants as a prototypical metacommunity. - In: Holyoak, M., Leibold, M. A. and Holt, R. D. (eds.), Metacommunities: Spatial Dynamics and Ecological Communities. University of Chicago Press, pp. 122-145.
  • Hoekman, D. 2007. Top-down and bottom-up regulation in a detritus-based aquatic food web: a repeated field experiment using the pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) inquiline community. - American Midland Naturalist 157: 52-62.

Vernacular names

English: Purple pitcher plant


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