Sarracenia purpurea L.

purple pitcherplant

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

The purple pitcherplant is the only pitcherplant native to New England. Carnivory helps it to thrive in the low-nitrogen environment of peat bogs. Insects are attracted into the lurid red or purple pitchers, and are then prevented from getting out by downward-pointing hairs. They eventually fall into the fluid enclosed in the leaves, where the prey are digested by a community of insect larvae, flesh flies, and other organisms. Native Americans used the roots as a diuretic, a treatment for childbirth-related symptoms, and an anti-diabetic (three compounds isolated from S. purpurea show enhanced glucose uptake in rat liver cells). The pitcherplant was also used to prevent smallpox, and recent studies have confirmed that extracts from this plant can inhibit pox viruses from reproducing.

Habitat

Bogs, fens (calcium-rich wetlands), wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Flower petal color
  • blue to purple
  • green to brown
  • pink to red
Leaf type
the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant (basal)
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
there are five petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
Fusion of petals
the petals are separate
Stamen number
13 or more
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Fruit length
10–20 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached near its midpoint to the filament
    Anther opening
    the anthers have narrow slits or furrows that run cross-wise across the anthers
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla morphology
    NA
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    0
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary, and lacks a hypanthium
    Flower diameter
    50–70 mm
    Flower number
    1
    Flower orientation
    the flower bends downwards or hangs downwards
    Flower petal color
    • blue to purple
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Form of style
    the style is lobed at the tip, and unbranched
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Fused stamen clusters
    NA
    Fusion of petals
    the petals are separate
    Hairs on inflorescence
    the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Hypanthium
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Hypanthium length
    0 mm
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are arrayed in a spiral around the inflorescence axis or branches, or occur singly, or in several ranks
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    NA
    Length of peduncle
    220–790 mm
    Marks on petals
    • NA
    • the petals have spots or streaks on them
    • there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of branches in umbel
    0
    Number of carpels
    5
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    there are five petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal folds or pleats
    the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal length
    15–35 mm
    Petal number
    5
    Petal shape
    • the petal outline is elliptic (shaped like an ellipse; widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the petal outline is obovate (roughly egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    Petal tip shape
    the petal tip is rounded
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    NA
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Scales inside corolla
    NA
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal cilia
    the sepals do not have cilia
    Sepal color
    • blue to purple
    • pink to red
    Sepal length
    22–42 mm
    Sepal number
    5
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the corolla
    Sepal relative length
    NA
    Sepal shape
    • the sepal outline is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    • the sepal outline is roughly triangular
    Sepal tip shape
    • the sepal tip is obtuse (is bluntly pointed)
    • the sepal tip is rounded
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Stamen lengths differ
    the stamens are all approximately the same length
    Stamen number
    13 or more
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not attached to one another
    Stigma position
    the stigmas are in another position
    Style length
    17–38 mm
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    NA
    Achene shape
    NA
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    NA
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Capsule splitting
    the capsule splits by five main valves, teeth or pores
    Carpel beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is round in cross-section
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length
    10–20 mm
    Fruit shape
    the fruit is spherical
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Fruit width
    10–20 mm
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    NA
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Placenta arrangement
    • the plant has axile placentation, in which the ovules are attached where the septa of a compound ovary are united, usually on the central axis, or to the septa themselves
    • the plant has parietal placentation, where ovules develop on the wall or slight outgrowths of the wall forming broken partitions within a compound ovary
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    0
    Seed length
    1.7–2 mm
    Seed number
    400–1000
    Seed surface
    • the seed has tubercles on it (swellings or projections of a different color or texture than the seed)
    • the seed is covered with reticulate markings (a netlike pattern due to splitting and rejoining of lines or ridges)
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Horizontal rooting stem
    the plant does not have stolons
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Parasitism
    insectivorous
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    no
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    0
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Floral bracts
    the flower has one or more bracts associated with it
    Flower bract length
    5–8 mm
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    Hooked hairs on underside of leaf
    no
    Inflated hairs on leaf
    the leaf blade does not have inflated hairs on it
    Leaf arrangement
    the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant (basal)
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade flatness
    the edges of the leaf are curled under
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade has simple hairs with no glands, and not tangled or wooly
    Leaf blade length
    100–200 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    • the leaf blade is obovate (egg-shaped, but with the widest point above the middle of the leaf blade)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    • the upper side of the leaf blade has obvious spots, mottles or stripes
    • the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is coriaceous (has a firm, leathery texture)
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the major veins form a net-like pattern due to splitting and rejoining
    Leaf duration
    the leaves remain green all winter
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf hair orientation
    the hairs are curved or lying flat, mostly pointed toward the base of the leaf
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is very shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk base
    the petiole base clasps the stem or sheathes the stem
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    • the leaf blade margin is wavy, but does not have teeth
    • the leaf has a row of two or more lobes on each side of the central axis
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaf types
    NA
    Leaf variation
    NA
    Leaflet number
    0
    Leaflet petiolules
    NA
    Leaves per node
    the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant (basal)
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    NA
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Stipels
    NA
    Stipule edges
    NA
    Stipule features
    NA
    Stipule fused to leaf stalk
    NA
    Stipule length
    0 mm
    Stipule shape
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    0
  • Place
    Habitat
    wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • bogs
    • edges of wetlands
    • fens (calcium-rich wetlands)
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of a smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Direction of stem hairs
    NA
    Flowering stem cross-section
    NA
    Flowering stem width
    0 mm
    Hair between stem nodes
    NA
    Hairs between stem nodes
    NA
    Hooked hairs on stem between nodes
    NA
    Leaves on stem
    the flowering stem has no leaves above the base
    Length of hairs between stem nodes
    0 mm
    Stem bloom
    NA
    Stem hair distribution
    NA
    Stem nodes swollen
    NA
    Stem orientation
    NA
    Stem roughness between nodes
    NA
    Stem spacing
    the plant is growing in tufts, or compact clusters with closely spaced stems, or it is densely matted together in clumps, cushionlike
    Stem succulence
    NA
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils
    Wings on stem
    NA

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. gibbosa

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Sarracenia heterophylla Eat.
  • Sarracenia pupurea var. heterophylla (Eat.) Torr.

Genus

Sarracenia

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Sarracenia purpurea L. ssp. purpurea.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Sarracenia purpurea L. ssp. purpurea N

purple pitcherplant. Sarracenia heterophylla Eat.; S. pupurea L. var. heterophylla (Eat.) Torr. 
• CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Peatlands, peaty shores. Two color forms of this species occur in our area. Most plants show red to purple coloration (to a lesser or greater extent) on the leaves and petals and stigma apices. Rare plants show entirely pale green leaves with pale yellow petals and stigma apices.