(Sarracenea purpurea) Pitcher-plant family

Flower - Deep reddish purple, sometimes partly greenish, pink, or

red, 2 in. or more across, globose; solitary, nodding from scape

1 to 2 ft. tall. Calyx of 5 sepals, with 3 or 4 bracts at base; 5

overlapping petals, enclosing a yellowish, umbrella-shaped

dilation of the style, with 5 rays terminating in 5-hooked

stigmas; stamens indefinite. Leaves: Hollow, pitcher-shaped

through the folding together of their margins, leaving a broad

wing; much inflated, hooded, yellowish green with dark maroon or

purple lines and veinings, 4 to 12 in. long, curved, in a tuft

from the root.

Preferred Habitat - Peat bogs; spongy, mossy swamps.

Flowering Season - May-June.

Distribution - Labrador to the Rocky Mountains, south to Florida,

Kentucky, and Minnesota.

"What's this I hear

About the new carnivora?

Can little piants

Eat bugs and ants

And gnats and flies? -

A sort of retrograding:

Surely the fare

Of flowers is air

Or sunshine sweet

They shouldn't eat

Or do aught so degrading!"

There must always be something shocking in the sacrifice of the

higher life to the lower, of the sensate to what we are pleased

to call the insensate, although no one who has studied the

marvelously intelligent motives that impel a plant's activities

can any longer consider the vegetable creation as lacking

sensibility. Science is at length giving us a glimmering of the

meaning of the word universe, teaching, as it does, that all

creatures in sharing the One Life share in many of its powers,

and differ from one another only in degree of possession, not in

kind. The transition from one so-called kingdom into another

presumably higher one is a purely arbitrary line marked by man,

and often impossible to define. The animalcule and the

insectivorous plant know no boundaries between the animal and the

vegetable. And who shall say that the sun-dew or the bladderwort

is not a higher organism than the amoeba? Animated plants, and

vegetating. animals parallel each other. Several hundred

carnivorous plants in all parts of the world have now been named

by scientists.

It is well worth a journey to some spongy, sphagnum bog to gather

clumps of pitcher-plants which will furnish an interesting study

to an entire household throughout the summer while they pursue

their nefarious business in a shallow bowl on the veranda. A

modification of the petiole forms a deep hollow pitcher having

for its spout a modification of the blade of the leaf. Usually

the pitchers are half filled with water and tiny drowned victims

when we gather them. Some of this fluid must be rain, but the

open pitcher secretes much juice too. Certain relatives, whose

pitchers have hooded lids that keep out rain, are nevertheless

filled with fluid. On the Pacific Coast the golden jars of

Darlingtonia Californica, with their overarching hoods, are often

so large and watery as to drown small birds and field mice. Note

in passing that these otherwise dark prisons have translucent

spots at the top, whereas our pitcher-plant is lighted through

its open transom.

A sweet secretion within the pitcher's rim, which some say is

intoxicating, others, that it is an anaesthetic, invites insects

to a fatal feast. It is a simple enough matter for them to walk

into the pitcher over the band of stiff hairs, pointing downward

like the withes of a lobster pot, that form an inner covering, or

to slip into the well if they attempt crawling over its polished

upper surface. To fly upward in a perpendicular line once their

wings are wet is additionally hopeless, because of the hairs that

guard the mouth of the trap; and so, after vain attempts to fly

or crawl out of the prison, they usually sink exhausted into a

watery grave.

When certain plants live in soil that is so poor in nitrogen

compounds that protein formation is interfered with, they have

come to depend more or less on a carnivorous diet. The sundew

(q.v.) actually digests its prey with the help of a gastric juice

similar to what is found in the stomach of animals; but the

bladderwort (q.v.) and pitcher-plants can only absorb in the form

of soup the products of their victims' decay. Flies and gnats

drowned in these pitchers quickly yield their poor little bodies;

but owing to the beetle's hard-shell covering, many a rare

specimen may be rescued intact to add to a collection.

A similar ogre plant is the YELLOW-FLOWERED TRUMPET-LEAF (S.

flava) found in bogs in the Southern States.

PIPSISSEWA PRINCE'S PINE PLANT GARDEN STONECROP WITCHES' MONEY facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail