Evolution and Systematics
The leaves of marsh pitchers guide insects into a water trap via long, slippery hairs.
"The marsh pitcher's trap is a very simple one. Its foot-long leaves are curled lengthwise and joined at the margin to form a tall vertical tube. At the top, the tip of the midrib flares into a reddish-rimmed hood that carries a great number of nectar-producing glands. The abundant rains keep these trumpets filled with water. If they were topped up to the very brim, they might be so heavy that they would be in danger of bursting, or at any rate, toppling over. But this does not happen. The seam joining the margins of the leaf is not fastened along its entire length. It stops an inch or so below the upper rim and the resultant vertical slit acts as a safety overflow. One species has a ring of small holes encircling the tube a little below the upper margin and these too act as overflows if the water level gets too high.
"Flies and mosquitoes, attracted by the sweet fragrance of the nectar, alight on the hood. As they explore the plant in search of more nectar, they tend to move down into the tube. But this is covered with long, slippery, downward-pointing hairs. Losing their grip, the insects slip downwards. That worsens their situation, for they descend to a section of the tube where the walls have no hairs at all but are smooth and waxy. Down they slide until they tumble into the water. Unable to get any purchase on the surrounding walls, they drown. Bacterial decay then dissolves the tiny corpses and the marsh pitcher absorbs the resulting soup." (Attenborough 1995:74)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants: A Natural History of Plant Behavior. London: BBC Books. 320 p.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimen Records: 75
Specimens with Sequences: 75
Specimens with Barcodes: 45
Species With Barcodes: 27
Public Records: 41
Public Species: 21
The family comprises three extant genera: Sarracenia (North American pitcher plants), Darlingtonia (the cobra lily or California pitcher plant), and Heliamphora (sun pitchers). The extinct Archaeamphora longicervia may also belong to this family. The first two are native to North America while Heliamphora is native to South America. All three are carnivorous plants that lure insects with nectar and use their elongated tube shaped leaves filled with water and digestive enzymes (or bacteria in the case of Darlingtonia) to catch and consume them. Many species also use downward pointing hairs and waxy secretions to make it difficult for insects to escape.
These plants grow in nutrient-poor, often acidic soil and use the insects as a nutritional supplement. The pitchers originate from a rhizome and die back during the winter dormancy. Plants of the genus Sarracenia occur mostly in Sphagnum bogs.
Most Sarraceniaceae have tall, narrow pitchers that are vertical or nearly so. Sarracenia purpurea, however, has short, squat, bulbous pitchers close to the ground, and Sarracenia psittacina has pitchers that grow horizontally.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sarraceniaceae.|
- McPherson, S. & D. Schnell 2011. Sarraceniaceae of North America. Redfern Natural History Productions Ltd., Poole.
- McPherson, S., A. Wistuba, A. Fleischmann & J. Nerz 2011. Sarraceniaceae of South America. Redfern Natural History Productions Ltd., Poole.
- Li, H. 2005. PDF (2.84 MiB) Acta Bot. Gallica 152(2): 227-234.
- Ellison, A.M., E.D. Butler, E.J. Hicks, R.F.C. Naczi, P.J. Calie, C.D. Bell & C.C. Davis 2012. Phylogeny and biogeography of the carnivorous plant family Sarraceniaceae. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39291. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039291
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