Pitcher Plant Facts
The pitcher plant is one of the most popular houseplants. There are many varieties of these plants but they all have similar characteristics. They grow from seed which means they need light to germinate and grow into their full size. These plants require very little water so it’s best not to overwater them or else they will die off before reaching maturity.
These plants are native to tropical regions like South America, Africa and Australia. However, they’ve been introduced to other parts of the world including North America where they’re called “pitchers”. The name comes from the fact that these plants produce a sticky substance called nectar. When you squeeze a pitcher plant, it releases this liquid that looks almost exactly like honey!
When you cut open a pitcher plant, you’ll usually see flowers growing inside its stem. These flowers look pretty much the same throughout the pitcher plant species. Some are white, some purple, and others have different colors such as red, pink or yellow.
In addition to its edible flowers, pitchers can also produce seeds. These seeds are small and round with a dark green coloration. A small number of these seeds are placed on the ground where they need water and light in order to grow.
The most common species of pitcher plant is called the cobra lily. This species is named after the real flower called the cobra lily or Darliaceae. The flower itself can be found in many parts of Southeast Asia such as Borneo, Java, Sumatra and New Guinea.
The cobra lily grows wild in the jungles but also as a garden plant found in many urban areas. It is believed that these plants are poisonous but there’s still some debate about this. While there is no scientific evidence that it kills humans, you should avoid eating the flowers or the plant itself. At the very least, it won’t do you any good!
Pitcher Plant Care
When it comes to taking care of your pitcher plant, there are a few simple steps that you can take to make sure it lasts for several years. First of all, these plants need plenty of sunlight so make sure you place them somewhere where they can get at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. You can place them on a windowsill that faces the sun for example.
While pitcher plants do not require much water, they do need some. Keep the soil damp but not wet and never let it completely dry out. It can also help to put a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage. When you water your plant, make sure that you never use hot or boiling water since this could harm your plant.
If the inside of the pot is made of plastic, never put it in water that’s above 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, you should make sure you fertilize your plant at least once a month during the spring and summer. If you can’t remember to do this, there are special pitcher plant fertilizers available for purchase. Follow the instructions on the package for the correct dosage.
Pitcher Plant Cultivation
The pitcher plant is actually not a single species but a collection of several different plants that all fall under the same category. The most common types are the North American Sarracenia, the European Darlingtonia and the Australian Cephalotus.
These plants are found wild in various parts of the United States and grow well in boggy soil. They usually feature a tall hollow stem with a “pitcher” at the top that contains a liquid known to kill small insects. At the bottom of this pitcher is a hole that acts as a trap. The insects are lured in by a sweet scent and fall to their doom.
The walls of the pitcher are slippery so that the insect cannot climb out and it soon drowns as the pitcher is filled with liquid. Eventually, the nutrients from the dead insect provide food for the plant.
The Darlingtonia is only found wild in parts of Northern California and Oregon. It is recognized mainly by the fact that its’ pitchers grow along the ground rather than standing upright like most other species.
This rare plant can be found only in parts of Australia such as Western Australia. It features a sideways pitcher and looks a bit like a sea anemone. The hood of the pitcher features a attractive “frill” that resembles a lop-sided petticoat.
In addition to these main types of pitcher plants, there are several others that are less common or not as well known. These include the Mexican (Sarracenia Duratrix), European (Sarracenia Tornata and Sarracenia Rubra), Asian (Sarracenia Flava) and various others.
The unusual plants are most commonly found in North America and less frequently in other parts of the world. They generally prefer wet or boggy areas and can be found at the edges of lakes and ponds, in bogs or similar environments. They also need a certain amount of sunlight so are not usually found growing under trees.
Pitcher plants are known to have been used by Native Americans for various purposes including making poison to tip their arrows with.
The plants themselves rarely grow more than around 40 to 60 centimeters in height and have a strange looking appearance. They may not be the most beautiful of plants but they certainly play an important role in nature by helping to clean up the environment.
Growing Pitcher Plants
Pitcher plants can be grown quite easily as long as you take a few simple precautions. For a start, never let the plant dry out and always place it somewhere with a fairly high humidity. You may also want to consider placing it over a tray of water so that the bottom of the pitcher is in the water.
Pitchers require a lot of nutrients and minerals in order to grow healthy and strong so it is essential that you always add plenty of fertilizer to the soil. Without this liquid gold, your plant will not survive.
In terms of lighting, the plant requires both direct sunlight and also bright artificial light such as from a fluorescent tube. It is essential that the plant gets sufficient light otherwise it will begin to grow “leggy” and tall rather than developing the usual rounded pitcher appearance.
If your plant begins to lean over or fall over, you should place it in a vertical position and fasten it with a stake or piece of wire. It may undergo a “hardening off” period of around 2 weeks where it is adjusting to its new position. After this time, it should begin to right itself naturally.
One final word of warning: Pitcher plants are extremely poisonous and should be handled with great care. If you use them to decorate your home or office, do not allow small children to come into contact with them. The poisonous components act very quickly and can kill a child within minutes.
Pitcher plants are certainly remarkable and highly unusual additions to any home. Their dramatic appearance provides a talking point for guests and they look particularly fantastic when grown in large numbers in the right environment.
With a little care and attention, they can last for many years and become a wonderful family heirloom. After all, who could possibly resist owning a plant that eats insects!
Pitcher plants are a truly fascinating example of the wonders of nature. These carnivorous plants have intrigued people for centuries and continue to do so today.
By taking a look at these remarkable plants, you will gain a greater appreciation for nature and all that it has to offer us.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Mimicry and mutualism in carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarraceniaceae, Nepenthaceae, Cephalotaceae, Bromeliaceae) by DM Joel – Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 1988 – academic.oup.com
Effects of the pitcher plant mining moth Exyra semicrocea on the hooded pitcher plant Sarracenia minor by DC Moon, A Rossi, K Stokes, J Moon – The American Midland Naturalist, 2008 – BioOne
Nitrogen availability alters the expression of carnivory in the northern pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea by AM Ellison, NJ Gotelli – Proceedings of the National …, 2002 – National Acad Sciences
Inquiline communities in pitcher plants as a prototypical metacommunity by TE Miller, JM Kneitel – Metacommunities: spatial dynamics and …, 2005 – books.google.com
Studies of the Byron Bog in Southwestern Ontario: X. Inquilines and Victims of the Pitcher-Plant, Sarracenia purpurea L.1 by WW Judd – The Canadian Entomologist, 1959 – cambridge.org
The savage garden, revised: Cultivating carnivorous plants by P D’amato – 2013 – books.google.com
The carnivorous syndrome in Nepenthes pitcher plants: current state of knowledge and potential future directions by JA Moran, CM Clarke – Plant signaling & behavior, 2010 – Taylor & Francis
Short‐term effects of fire and competition on growth and plasticity of the yellow pitcher plant, Sarracenia alata (Sarraceniaceae) by JS Brewer – American Journal of Botany, 1999 – Wiley Online Library