Growing in nutrient-deficient soils, the Albany pitcher plant has evolved the remarkable ability to break down and absorb nutrients from insects trapped in its pitchers. Attracted to the plant by its bright colours and nectar secretions, insects stepping on the slippery, waxy surface of the mouth fall into the pitcher. The smooth inner surface of the pitcher, and the downward-pointing spines trap the prey, and unable to escape, it drowns in the pitcher fluid and is broken down by digestive enzymes (2) (3). Those insects not immediately trapped in the fluid are tricked by the translucent lid of the pitcher, which lets light through, to fly around the inside of the pitcher and try to escape. Eventually tiring, the prey fall fatally into the fluid (3). Nutrients gained from the insect prey supplement those obtained from the soils, allowing this plant to survive in environments where others would not (7).
Tiny flower heads raised on tall stalks begin to grow in late summer. Insects are attracted to the flowers and carry pollen between plants, and after pollination, brown, hairy seeds are produced. When exposed to the wind, the seeds are dispersed widely across the landscape, and in favourable conditions, rapidly growing clusters of young plants will emerge (2).