Green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila)

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderNepenthales
FamilySarraceniaceae
GenusSarracenia (1)
SizePitcher height: 20 - 75 cm (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The green pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant with highly modified leaves in the form of pitchers that act as pitfall traps for prey. The narrow pitcher leaves are tapered tubes that rise up to 75 centimetres from the ground, with a mouth 6 to 10 centimetres in circumference (2). The pitchers are greenish-yellow with noticeable fine veins, and above the pitcher a circular hood extends at an angle of roughly 180° upwards (4). The inside of the pitcher is hairy and heavily marked with purple veins (2). The leafless flower stalk grows to two-thirds the height of the pitchers and bears bright yellow flowers that smell weakly feline (4).

Previously more widespread in Alabama, Georgia and eastern Tennessee in the southern United States, the green pitcher plant is today restricted to small populations mainly in northeast Alabama (5). This plant may also be found at one site in Georgia and at two in North Carolina (5).

The green pitcher plant is found mainly in seepage bogs where there are heavy, clay-rich, sandy soils (4). It appears to be particularly successful in open, sunny locations where there is little competition (4).

These carnivorous plants are perennial and flower from mid April to early June (4). Green pitcher plants are found in fairly nutrient-poor areas and have developed their carnivorous lifestyle as a way of supplementing their diet (2). The pitchers act as traps for a wide variety of insects, which are digested by the liquid within. Towards the end of summer as the seepage bogs begin to dry out in the hot, dry temperatures, green pitcher plants enter a stage of dormancy. The pitchers become mottled red in colour and then die back over a few weeks (4).

The green pitcher plant has suffered a devastating decline throughout its former range. Development for both urban and rural uses has led to the widespread alteration of the specific bog habitat of this species (5). Pitcher plants have also been over-collected for the commercial plant trade; such exotic species are very popular with collectors (5). Today, around 34 naturally occurring populations persist but these are small and highly fragmented; most consist of fewer than 50 individuals (5).

Green pitcher plants are listed as Endangered on the United States Endangered Species Act and there is an Action Plan for their recovery (2). The Recovery Plan focuses on the effective protection of existing populations, as the most important threat to the future of the green pitcher plant is over-collection (5). Collection is banned by legislation within the States and also internationally by the listing of this species on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). Ex-situ conservation measures are also in place; seeds are stored at the USDA National Seed Technology Laboratory in Fort Collins, and Atlanta Botanical Garden is propagating plants from seeds for future reintroduction programmes (5).

For more information on the green pitcher plant, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (March, 2003)
    http://www.fws.gov/cookeville/docs/endspec/pitchsa.html
  3. CITES (March, 2003)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Schnell, D.E. (2002) Carnivorous Plants of the United States and Canada. [2nd edn.]. Timber Press, Oregon.
  5. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Affairs (March, 2003)
    http://www.fws.gov/international/