Purple Pitcher Plant

Here is another from our roadtrip through Michigan earlier this summer, and finding this plant was a complete surprise to us and was one of the highlights of the trip. We found this in a boggy area surrounding one of the ponds at Rifle River State Recreation Area, and once we saw one, we couldn’t help but see them everywhere in the damp lowlands next to the water.

The orangey-red and green pitcher shaped leaf of the purple pitcher plant.
These distinctive drooping flowers hang much higher than the rest of the low-lying plant, making them easier to spot among the sedges and grasses in the bog.

What is it? Purple pitcher plant

What do the nerds call it? Sarracenia purpurea

Who is it related to? The Sarraceniaceae family, or Pitcher plants (many of which are carnivorous)

How can you tell it is what it is? It is a low-lying, lidless pitcher-shaped plant with a green background and a distinctive red-burgundy pattern on it, of varying intensity. The pitcher shape collects rainwater, and along with fine white hairs on the inside of the pitcher it traps insects inside to be ‘digested’.

Discussion: This beautifully patterned carnivorous plant is found in acidic peat bogs, where the soil stays damp. It is a hardy plant, being able to survive in very cold climates including having a widespread range into the Canadian north. It collects many insects in the warmer months, and has been known to trap young spotted salamanders as well. Most of the breakdown of the invertebrates is outsourced to the pitcher plant mosquito, who’s larvae is only found in the water of the purple pitcher plant. (Luckily, here in the north, these mosquitos don’t bite humans.)

Not all purple pitcher plants have their trademark red markings, such as this specimen that is almost all green.

Be on the lookout for a lot more of these posts in the coming weeks. I have a lot of new, actual backyard plants to identify and learn to care for.

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