October 30, 2014

Purple and Hungry

Sarracenia purpurea -  Purple pitcherplant | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Sarracenia purpurea – Purple pitcherplant | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

It’s not quite a flying purple people eater, but Sarracenia purpurea is purple – sometimes more of a red-purple – and does digest unsuspecting insects that are attracted to its colorful pitchers (click here to see a series of photos). Purple pitcherplant is the only pitcherplant native to Maine – photographed here at Baxter State Park in August – and the only cold-hardy one in the genus. It has the broadest range of any pitcherplant, stretching down most of the Eastern Seaboard, into Canada and across to the Great Lakes. As for how this foot-tall plant does its work, the insects are attracted to the pitchers and can’t escape because of the hairs. They fall into an enzyme-rich pool and are dissolved. In the plant’s second year, the digestion is aided by mosquito and midge larvae as well as bacteria. And if you ever journey to Newfoundland and Labrador, you will find purple pitcherplant to be the floral emblem for the province.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

Earlier in 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken earlier this year, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.