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What is a Pitcher Plant?

The Pitcher Plant is a broad category of plants referring to the members of the Sarraceniaceae and Nepenthaceae families. They are one of the popular carnivorous/insectivorous plants.

They live in acidic soils that are not nutrient-rich and hence depend on insects for nutrients.

The insects get attracted by the nectar and bright colors, and when they land on the slippery rim, they fall into the pitcher.

The insect gets dissolved in the digestive juices of the plant. It is present in the eastern and southeastern side of the USA and Canada.

We just learned about the Venus Fly Trap and how carnivorous they are. Most of the plants are autotrophs, but some of them depend on insects for their nutritional requirements.

Before the discovery of these insectivorous plants, humans never thought that such plants could even exist. This one example shows how varied nature is and how limited our thinking capabilities can be.

Without much ado, let’s learn about Pitcher Plant facts that will blow your mind.

Pitcher Plant Facts 1-10

1. The Pitcher Plant is not like Venus Fly Trap. Ven Fly Trap is a particular plant species. In contrast, a Pitcher Plant is a group of plant species that belong to a minimum of four plant families viz. Bromeliaceae, Cephalotaceae, Nepenthaceae, and Sarraceniaceae. Nepenthaceae family alone has 100 species of plants.

2. The pitchers are the leaf modifications of the plant. Leaves modify to form something called pitfall traps. The pitfall trap consists of a deep cavity that is filled with digestive liquid.

3. In the Old World Pitcher Plants, the pitchers are present at the end of tendrils. The Old World Pitcher Plants have small and symmetrical pitchers. A waxy coating is seen on the inner surface of the pitcher.

4. Some of the Old World Pitcher Plants are climbers while some stay on the ground.

5. The Pitcher Plants of the New World comprises mostly of three genera. They stay on the ground and are not climbers. The entire leaf transforms into a pitcher. The New World pitchers have a little complex structure than the Old World ones.

6. In South America, the Pitcher Plants of the genus Heliamphora have a rolled-leaf pitcher. These are famously called the marsh pitchers. They are endemic to South America and are found nowhere else.

7. In North America, the pitchers of the genus Sarracenia are popularly known as trumpet pitchers. Its structure is in such a way that it prevents excess water accumulation through the rain.

8. Then there is the cobra plant (genus: Darlingtonia). It is called a cobra plant because of its inflated lid with a forked tongue-like structure. The “tongue” helps the insects to get into the trap. It is seen in California.  

9. In Australia, specifically southwestern Australia, the family Cephalotaceae is seen. The pitchers are really small when compared to the pitchers of the family Nepenthes.

10. Sarracenia purpurea or commonly called purple Pitcher Plant, is the floral emblem of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador.

Pitcher Plant Facts 11-20

11. Like Venus Fly Trap, the Pitcher Plant (of any family and genus) attracts the insects through its nectar and brightly colored pitcher.

12. The pitcher’s rim stays slippery either due to rainwater or the nectar. This makes sure that insects fall into the pitcher.

13. The plant’s waxy scales, cuticular folds, aldehyde crystals, downward-pointing hair, etc. prevent the insect from climbing up the pitcher.

14. Small pools of liquid present inside the pitcher are called phytotelmata. It helps in drowning the insect, and finally, the insect gets digested.

15. The digestion of the insect can happen in multiple ways. The bacteria present in the pitcher may dissolve the insect, or the digestive juices of the Pitcher Plant may do the job. In some species, mutually symbiotic larvae present in the pitcher digests the insect.

16. The plant mostly draws in nitrogen and phosphorus from the insects.

17. Common to all insectivorous plants, the Pitcher Plant grows in soils that are low on nutrients or acidic soils.

18. Mature Nepenthes plants go for mutual symbiosis. The tree shrews eat the nectar and drop their droppings in the pitcher. The droppings provide the required nutrients to the plant.

19. There are certain modifications in Nepenthes like the rim is not as slippery as it is in other Pitcher Plants. It also provides more nectar for the tree shrews.

20. They are resistant to fires, and fires help them weed out competition. Some of the species of the Pitcher Plant group are listed as vulnerable or endangered by the IUCN.

Pitcher Plant FAQ

What is special about Pitcher Plant?

The Picther Plant absorbs the nitrogen and phosphorus by preying on and digesting insects. It uses its vase-shaped cups to prey insects.

Is Pitcher Plant rare?

No, it is not rare.

Can a Pitcher Plant eat a human?

No, it can’t.

Can I give dead bugs to my Pitcher Plant?

Yes, you can give both live and dead bugs. The size of the bugs should be 1/3rd of the pitcher, else the plant becomes overwhelmed.

Why is my Pitcher Plant dying?

The reasons can be many. One of the most important reasons is the hydration – the plant has to be hydrated properly to live healthily.

Are Pitcher Plants poisonous?

No, they are not poisonous. However, if you eat a lot of them you may experience vomiting or diarrhea.

Do Pitcher Plants attract insects?

Yes, the plants attract insects with its nectar and color trap.

Where the Pitcher Plant is located?

It is present in tropical areas. It is present in the areas extending from Madagascar to Australia.

Does the Pitcher Plant need direct sunlight?

It can sustain in both direct sunlight or light shade.


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