It's Wildflower Wednesday--a meme hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone on the fourth Wednesday of every month.
This month, I decided to highlight a carnivorous plant--The Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea). When in bloom, its nodding, burgundy-colored flowers are pretty easy to spot in the wild, although its growing conditions are highly specialized.
This species is widespread throughout Canada, the Northeastern U.S., and in a few spots in the Appalachians and the Coastal Southeast. However, it's most likely to be found in bog habitats--highly acidic, waterlogged peatlands, in old lake basins or depressions. In bogs, there are few or no surface inflows, so they have low rates of decomposition.
Sphagnum Moss, the dominant living matter, and accumulated peat lying just below the surface, release acids. Often the pH in bogs is as low as 3.0 to 4.0.
In areas where trails lead across bogs, the soil feels bouncy because of the accumulated organic matter and peat.
One very special place to experience healthy bog habitats is The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County, Wis., where these photos were taken. At The Ridges, wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens (and other habitats) exist in close proximity.
The Ridges, which consists of about 30 narrow, crescent-shaped ridges along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is home to one of the greatest concentrations of rare plants in the Midwest. I posted about one of our trips to The Ridges in 2014.
If you catch sight of the burgundy flowers of the Purple Pitcher Plant, you're probably on or near a bog. The flowers are attractive, but you'll also want to look down.
At the base of the stems are the carnivorous leaves of the plant--forming an open, spreading rosette. Sometimes the foliage is tinged with burgundy or purple.
The Purple Pitcher Plant, found in USDA zones 4 to 8, is one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. Its hollow pitchers fill with water, and when flying and crawling insects land on the foliage they can crawl in but may have trouble getting out through the stiff, downward-pointing hairs. Trapped insects that fall into the water are then digested and absorbed by the plant. This provides nutrients to the plant, especially nitrogen, which is in short supply in the highly acidic bog soil.
Because of its specialized needs, Purple Pitcher Plant is best purchased from a reputable nursery, not extracted from the wild. It can be grown as a houseplant in a particular mix of peat moss and perlite. Regular garden or potting soil will kill the plant.
For more information on this unique wildflower plant and its specialized habitat, visit the source links for this post:
- Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
- USDA Forest Service
- USDA Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry
- The Ridges Sanctuary
Be sure to visit Gail at Clay and Limestone for posts about other wildflowers from around the world. I'm also linking this post to Dozens for Diana, at Elephant's Eye on False Bay.