Sarracenia in Habitat

Reprinted from the Journal Trifid No. 3/2005:

My talk will explore Sarracenia, mostly in their habitat, to show the diversity of forms that one can experience within the wild populations. The tour will be mostly geographical but will also look at separate species, concentrating on specific areas of North America. The photos are largely from my own visits to Sarracenia habitat and have been taken over a number of years.

Sarracenia are present very roughly in a strip running from the Gulf states in the southern USA and running along the coastal lowlands along the Atlantic coast and into Canada. Historically Sarracenia were present more or less all along this coastal strip extending at least as far north as Nova Scotia in Canada. South populations extended down into the Florida peninsular at least as far as Lake Okeechobee and possibly slight further south. In all directions natural barriers served to limit the extent of Sarracenia migration. In southern Florida the sub-tropical climate that created the Everglades does not suit the herbaceous Sarracenia, which require a cold winter dormancy. In the east the deserts and semi-deserts of Texas created a natural barrier while east of the Atlantic coastal region montane conditions created a physical barrier, though as we shall see, some populations have managed to populate these areas to a limited extent.

S. purpurea ssp. purpurea var. heterophylla from Ontario, Canada
S. flava var. rubricorpora growing with D. filiformis var. tracyi from Apalachicola National Forest

First though we will look at Sarracenia purpurea. In it’s northern sub-species, Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea this species is almost certainly the most populous of all the Sarracenia species. The range of this species is huge. In Canada it is certainly found in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In the marl bogs Sarracenia purpurea ssp. riplicola is found. These plants are characterised by their small size – plants rarely reach even half the size of ssp. purpurea plants, and their intensely red pitchers.

One other form which is to be found is the variety heterophylla. In this variety all red colouration in the plant is entirely absent. The plants are usually quite easy to spot and are surprisingly common in some populations.

Moving south of the Chesapeake Bay area we arrive at North Carolina. Here the warmer summer conditions mean that a far greater range of Sarracenia species can be found. The best known area for Sarracenia in North Carolina is probably the Green Swamp though it is by no means the only area of suitable habitat.
The Sarracenia species found here are S. flava, S. rubra ssp. rubra, S. minor and S. purpurea ssp. venosa. The habitat here is markedly different to that found in the north. Large expanses of wet grassland with occasional pine trees make up the habitat.

The S. rubra plants form small but quite dense clumps of red veined pitchers. There is little variation in the colouration of the pitchers though in some populations I have observed some difference in lid shape. S. minor is actually quite rare in North Carolina barely making it across the state line from South Carolina.

Sarracenia flava is found in a number of different varieties. The most commonly found variety is S. flava var. flava.
S. flava var. cuprea is the form known locally as “Copper Top”.
Some plants are found with no veining at all and are known as S. flava var. maxima.

S. flava var. atropurpurea from Green Swamp, North Carolina
S. psittacina - very dark flowers from Apalachicola National Forest

Finally occasional plants are found with intense red colour throughout the entire pitcher surface. This is known as S. flava var. atropurpurea.

The S. purpurea ssp. venosa plants are very attractive with distinctive vein patterns and generally larger, more squat pitchers.

In southern South Carolina only S. flava and S. minor is common though I have seen S. purpurea and S. rubra in one South Carolina site where these species are not usually found. Worth mentioning are also the mountain bog populations found to the west of North and South Carolina. Here the rare subspecies S. purpurea ssp. montane is found.
However, in Georgia is found the giant S. minor var. okeefenokeensis. In fact populations of larger than normal plants are found in other locations than the Okeefenokee swamp though none reach the proportions of these plants.

Moving further west a further sub-species of S. rubra – ssp. gulfensis is found. This plant almost certain would be highly endangered were it not that by chance, a large portion of its already limited area is occupied by a military zone.
Further west S. flava gives way to S. alata and S. leucophylla. Throughout this area is also found S. psittacina.

S. leucophylla occupies a relatively small area, more or less comprising of the western part of the Florida panhandle, into southern Alabama and then to some eastern areas of the state of Mississippi.
S. alata makes an appearance in Southern Alabama and here the plants are almost entirely green with moderate veining on the pitchers.
Also found in this area is the diminutive S. rubra ssp. wherryi. These plants are small growing attractive olive coloured pitchers with moderate veining and often a coppery lid.

I have deliberately not mentioned any of the rare federally protected species; S. rubra ssp. jonesii, S. rubra ssp. alabamensis and S. oreophila. These populations are now highly endangered and are rightly protected and the locations kept secret.

Redaction notice: The original sent text was made shorter markedly.

Phil Wilson – A CP´s grower with a special interest in the Sarracenia genus, The Great Britain.