Sarracenia is a genus of carnivorous plants that comprise between 8 to 11 species of North American pitcher plants more commonly known as trumpet pitcher plants. Sarracenia belongs to the family Sarraceniaceae which contain the closely allied genera Darlingtonia and Heliamphora.
Sarracenia is a genus of carnivorous plants indigenous to the eastern seaboard of the United States, Texas, the Great Lakes area and southeastern Canada. Most species are found growing in the south-east United States and only S. Purpurea occurs in cold-temperate regions and S. Darlingtonia is found on the west coast in California and Oregon.
Trumpet pitcher plants grow in subtropical wetlands, bogs and marshes where it is humid and the soil is nutrient deficient. Trumpet pitchers are threatened in the wild by development and the drainage of their natural habitat. An estimated 97% of their habitat has already been destroyed in the south-eastern United States.
Trumpet pitcher plants grow from a subterranean (underground) rhizome (stem) with many tubular pitcher-shaped leaves radiating out from the growing point. Flowers are produced early in spring with or slightly ahead of the first pitchers. The pitchers grow vigorously during spring and summer reaching heights of up to a meter in mature plants. At the end of autumn the pitchers begin to wither and the plants produce non-carnivorous leaves called phyllodia. As the supply of insects during winter is decreased and the onset of cold weather slows plant metabolism, it is wasteful of the plant’s energy to produce carnivorous leaves at this time.
Trumpet pitcher plants can be propagated by seed, root division, leaf pullings and tissue culture. It takes about 3-5 years for the plant to reach flowering size from seed. They are perennial so they live for two years or more and when properly cared for can live for many years.
The leaves of the Trumpet pitcher plant have evolved into specialized cylindrical pitchers or funnels that are excellent at trapping insects. Their traps are static and do not rely on the use of moving parts.
Trumpet pitchers attract their prey using a combination of lures including colour, scent and a nectar-like secretion on the lip or rim of pitchers. Insects are forced to walk on the slippery rim in order to get to the nectar and they often slip and fall down to the bottom of the pitcher aided by of gravity. Furthermore Coniine, a toxin found in poison hemlock has been detected in about 8 species of Sarracenia and also may play a role in the insects demise.
Once inside the pitcher, the insect finds the footing very slippery because of a waxy surface covering the walls of the pitcher. Further down the tube, downward-pointing hairs make retreat impossible. In the lowest region of the tube, specialized glands on the inside surface of the pitcher excrete a fluid containing digestive enzymes which liquefies the trapped insect so that it can be digested. The exoskeletons are usually not digested, and over the course of the summer fill up the pitcher tube.
The main prey of Sarracenia are ants, flies, wasps, bees, beetles, slugs and snails.