Monday, May 9, 2011

Pitcher Plants of the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, May 9, 2011

My wife and I were in good fortune today: A park ranger and a volunteer took us by 4-wheeled ATVs—into a part of the park that is not open to the public—to see blooming hooded pitcher plants (Sarracenia minor, member of the Sarraceniaceae family). Hooded pitcher plants are protected and officially listed as Threatened in Florida. Of the seven species of pitcher plant in Florida, this is the only one found in Brevard Co. Six of the seven are listed as Threatened or Endangered. The hooded pitcher plant is found only in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

Following is some information I found online about pitcher plants and, in particular, hooded pitcher plants and their translucent "windows."

Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants whose prey-trapping mechanism features a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap. Foraging, flying or crawling insects such as flies are attracted to the cavity formed by the cupped leaf, often by visual lures such as anthocyanin pigments and nectar bribes. The sides of the pitcher are slippery and may be grooved in such a way as to ensure that the insects cannot climb out. The small bodies of liquid contained within the traps drown the insect, and the body of it is gradually dissolved. (

Hooded pitcher plants have an unusual adaptation: they have "windows" on the back of the pitcher. Some botanists suggest that this might confuse insects that fly into the trap into thinking they can fly out through them, thus dropping themselves into the digestive portion of the trap below. (

The hooded pitcher plant is differentiated from other Sarracenia species by its translucent windows located near the apex. These windows aid the plant in trapping insects that have entered the plant. The insects are sometimes fooled into thinking the windows provide a safe exit from the plant, but rather encounter a translucent wall and fall back into the plant to be digested. (

S. minor and S. psittacina are the only species in the genus to employ domed pitchers with translucent white patches that allow light to enter. It has been suggested that the light shining through these patches attracts flying insects further into the pitcher and away from the pitcher's mouth. (

Hooded pitcher plant Habitat

Many clumps of pitcher plants were located in the low area shown in the foreground in this photo. Although the ground was very dry today, the ranger said this time last year this area was wet and squishy—i.e., a bog, which is where pitcher plants are usually found.


Hooded pitcher plant photos, Group 1

These six photos were taken by my wife, Julie, with an old Olympus C-740 compact, 3.2 Mp, digital camera, held together by rubber bands.

Hooded pitcher plant photos, Group2

I took the above eight photos with my usual Nikon D60, 10.2 Mp SLR.

As I set up to take the next to last photo, a hornet slowly backed out of the pitcher plant hood. After a few seconds, the hornet went back in. I'm not sure if the hornet was about to become a victim of the carnivorous plant, or if it was feeding on something (insects?) in the plant. Maybe hornets are too large and powerful to be trapped by the pitcher plant.

The ranger told us that a park biologist recently split open a pitcher plant and found that it was filled with love bugs!

Yellow colicroot (Aletris lutea, Nartheciaceae)

Several colicroot plants were growing in the "bog." These are the only ones I've seen outside of the boggy area in Wickham Park.

Yellow milkwort, yellow bachelor's button (Polygala rugelii, Polygalaceae)
Native, Florida endemic

These plants also like bogs.

Largeflower rosegentian (Sabatia grandiflora, Gentianaceae)

This is another plant usually found in boggy areas. Also, saw meadowbeauty and hatpins, but did not photograph them.

Atlantic St.John's-wort (Hypericum tenuifolium, Clusiaceae)

Nearby was this low area, bordered on one side by a large patch of St.John's-wort. I didn't study the plants closely, but they had small, needle-like leaves, which suggests Hypericum tenuifolium.

No comments:

Post a Comment