SARRACENIA - Cultivating Carnivorous Plants (2015)

Cultivating Carnivorous Plants (2015)


Sarracenia ‘Gothic Rose’



The North-American Pitcher Plant,

Sarracenia, has inspired movie-makers, florists,

and the everyday gardener since it was first

illustrated in 1576 by Matthias de l’Obel. Since

1731, when the genus was first described by

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Sarracenia has

been the subject of intense taxonomic study.

(Even William Bartram wrote about the genus

in his travels around the southeastern United


Traditionally, Sarracenia has been divided

into eight species: alata, flava, leucophylla, minor,

oreophila, psittacina, purpurea, and rubra. More

recent taxonomic work has divided the genus

in up to eleven species. Recent genetic

analysis has revealed that at least nine species

exist: alabamensis, alata, flava, leucophylla, minor,

oreophila, psittacina, purpurea, and rubra.

Interestingly, that genetic analysis also

revealed that convergent evolution has

probably played a large part in Sarracenia

evolution. For instance, Sarracenia flava and

Sarracenia oreophila, which are frequently said to

look remarkably similar, were revealed to be

very distantly related. Similarly, Sarracenia

alabamensis, which had previously been

identified as a subspecies of Sarracenia rubra,

was revealed to be more distantly related to

members of the Sarracenia rubra complex than

species such as Sarracenia leucophylla, which

looks markedly different. Yet, curiously, Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea in flower. The distinctive

Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii, which was long

umbrella-like flowers of the species in the genus Sarracenia

thought to be as distantly related to the rest of

come in two colors - red or yellow - except for Sarracenia

the Sarracenia rubra complex as Sarracenia

purpurea ssp. burkii, which has light pink flowers.

alabamensis was revealed to be very closely


Interestingly, that genetic analysis also revealed that Sarracenia alata is very closely related to Sarracenia

rubra complex. In fact, there is some suggestion that Sarracenia alata is merely a subspecies of Sarracenia rubra.

Additionally, the genetic analysis concluded that the plant often known either as Saracenia rosea or Sarracenia

purpurea ssp. venosa var. burkii was more closely related to Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea and Sarracenia purpurea

ssp. venosa than the plant often known as Sarracenia purpurea ssp. venosa var. montana. (Taxonomically, each of the

four members of Sarrcenia purpurea should probably be a subspecies, and will be treated as such in this work).

It remains to be seen whether these nine species will be further divided or combined in light of future

genetic and taxonomic analysis. Part of the difficulty in determining how many species exist is due to the fact

that most species have overlapping ranges and flower at nearly the same time, resulting in a plethora of



hybrids, all of which are fertile, and many of

which interbreed with parent species. As a

consequence, many populations of otherwise

“pure” plants contain plants with hybrid

traits, making differentiation difficult.

Regardless of how many species of

Sarracenia actually exist, all species consist of

rosettes of hollow pitchers growing from a

central rhizome. In many species, growth is

progressive and directional. In other words,

as new pitchers grow, the rhizome elongates

horizontally along the soil surface. Over the

course of a growing season, such growth can

and often results in the growing point

splitting to create two or more growing

points emanating from a single rhizome. In

nature, the gradual, clump-forming nature of

Prey insects inside a Sarracenia x catesbaei pitcher.

Sarracenia can result in a single clone

populating large areas of a savanna.

Sadly, as with many plants native to the eastern seaboard of North America, Sarracenia have seen a rapid

and sustained habitat loss over the last few decades. Boggy savannas filled with towering pitchers stretching

towards the horizon are largely experiences of the past. Now, stories of savannas being ditched, bogs being

bulldozed, and plants being paved over abound. As a consequence, the true differentiation of Sarracenia

species may come too late for effective conservation of populations of each species in the wild.

Among the carnivorous plants, Sarracenia command a great deal of passion from growers, many of

whom find Sarracenia exceedingly easy to cultivate. Most species require a cool dormancy period, although

more southern species, such as Sarracenia minor, will tolerate a shorter dormancy than more northern species,

such as Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea. Full sunlight and fairly large growing spaces are preferable for most

species, but not required as most growers find that dividing large plants promotes optimal growth.

In Cultivation

Most Sarracenia live in nutrient-poor environments with acidic soil and a

high water table. In the wild, some plants, such as Sarracenia purpurea ssp.

purpurea, prefer to grow in bogs, often in masses of living sphagnum moss.

Others, such as Sarracenia psittacina, prefer to grow in low-lying ditches and by

lakesides, which are frequently flooded. Still others, such as Sarracenia flava,

often grow in wet savannas, while others, such as Sarracenia minor can be found

in wet pine woods or on floating hummocks in the middle of a swamp.

Fortunately, in cultivation, Sarracenia do not require such diverse ecosystems.

Instead, all grow well in a mix of one part sphagnum peat to one part sand or

perlite and bottom watered via a tray which is always filled with some water.

Sarracenia are well-adapted to growing in full sun. Most experience

incredibly intense light in the wild, something which is difficult to replicate

with grow lights. For most growers, the easiest way to keep Sarracenia is to

place them outside in full sun during warm summer months. This allows the

Sarracenia purpurea



plants to capture their own prey. Placing one-to-two Osmocote-style slow release fertilizer pellets near the

roots of an adult plant can significantly increase growth. In media that is too nutrient-rich, most Sarracenia will

produce non-carnivorous phyllodia, i.e. flattened leaves, in place of pitchers.

My standard growing guide for Sarracenia follows:

Media: The most common mixture is one part sphagnum peat to one part sand. I’ve found that

substituting perlite for sand can result in better growth (and lighter pots!), but I’m not sure if that

would hold true for every grower.

Moisture: Water via the tray method. Always keep water in the tray during the spring, summer, and

fall growing season. During winter dormancy, allow the tray to dry out and the media remain just

moist in order to prevent rot.

Humidity: Humidity is not a big concern for Sarracenia, but they do need some humidity. Growers in

dry regions should consider keeping the plants in a humid greenhouse or in a terrarium indoors.

Pot Size: Sarracenia have long roots. I would recommend one gallon pots for any plants older than

two years.

Feeding: Fertilizing Sarracenia can be done--but must be done carefully. It is much easier to keep the

plants outside during the growing season and let them catch their own prey. If this is not an option,

consider filling the pitchers with a little orchid fertilizer or placing one or two osmocote-style

fertilizer pellets near the roots of an adult plant. Foliar feeding via spraying the pitchers has no

noticeable effect if the fertilizer is not put into the pitchers.

Temperature: During the growing season, Sarracenia should not be exposed to freezing temperatures,

as that will kill new, unopened pitchers. The plants will tolerate daytime highs up to 95° F (35° C).

Dormancy: A cold winter dormancy is necessary for long-term success. During winter dormancy,

temperatures should not exceed 50° F (10° C), if possible, and light should be reduced.

Propagation: Sarracenia can be propagated through seed, leaf-pullings, division, or rhizome cuttings.


Seed: The slowest way to propagate Sarracenia is through seed. As with most carnivores, seed

should be stored in the refrigerator when not being germinated. In refrigerated storage, seed

can remain viable for several years. Seed must be exposed to a month-long cold stratification

process in order to germinate successfully. The easiest way to do this is to place the seed on

top of a suitable, damp medium, cover this with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator

for a month. Seed should germinate within three to four weeks after such treatment, if



Leaf-pullings: Leaf-pullings are the most difficult way to produce new plants. Essentially, a

leaf should be pulled from the rhizome with as much of the rhizome attached as possible.

The rhizome portion should then be buried in a suitable medium, the pitcher cut down, and

the whole thing placed in a clear plastic bag and placed out of direct sun. If successful, a new

plant will sprout from the base.


Division: The easiest way to propagate Sarracenia is division. This is best done during

dormancy, shortly before spring growth begins. Divide the crown in as many pieces as there

are growth points, while trying to keep as much of the root system intact as possible. Pot up

the new plants.


Rhizome Cuttings: Perhaps the riskiest way of propagating Sarracenia is via rhizome cuttings.

An inch long (2.5 cm) section of healthy rhizome ( i.e. rhizome that is white, not brown) may

be removed from a growing plant. This should be laid horizontally on top of a suitable

medium. The rhizome should then be covered with a little media. Growth should appear in a

few weeks. Please note, however, that dividing the rhizome will deprive the parent plant of a

store of nutrients, and, without a growth point, the new rhizome cutting is much more

susceptible to rot than plants with a growth point.



Sarracenia alabamensis

Although only distantly related to Sarracenia rubra, Sarracenia

alabamensis is often confused for Sarracenia rubra, specifically

Sarracenia rubra ssp. wherryi. It is easy to see why. Both commonly

have yellow pitchers with faint fenestrations near the top of the

pitcher and are nearly identical in pitcher shape. The only real

taxonomic differences are that Sarracenia alabamensis has 20 inch (50

cm) tall pitchers compared to Sarracenia rubra ssp. wherryi’s 16 inch

(40 cm) tall pitchers, and Sarracenia alabamensis is bright yellow in the

upper third of the pitcher, whereas Sarracenia rubra ssp. wherryi is not

as bright yellow.

Native to Elmore, Autauga, and Chilton counties in Alabama,

Sarracenia alabamensis is geographically separated from the members

of the Sarracenia rubra Complex. Yet, like Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii is

federally endangered due to its limited distribution and low rate of

incidence. Its geographic separation from the Sarracenia rubra

complex would indicate that it is possible Sarracenia alabamensis

evolved from the Sarracenia rubra Complex, but, given that recent

genetic analysis has indicated that Sarracenia leucophylla is more

closely related to Sarracenia rubra than Sarracenia alabamensis is to

Sarracenia rubra, it is likely that the similarities between Sarracenia

alabamensis and Sarracenia rubra ssp. wherryi are entirely due to

convergent evolution. In other words, the similar features of

Sarracenia alabamensis and Sarrracenia rubra ssp. wherryi evolved

independently, probably due to selection pressures that encouraged

that pitcher shape and coloration.

Due to the small numbers of Sarracenia alabamaensis in existence

and the ongoing controversy surrounding its elevation to species

status, it is not too surprising that no varieties have been formally

identified, yet. It is likely, however, that at least only variant will be

described. That variant differs from the typical plants by having

pitchers which are entirely red on the external surface of the

pitcher. If taxonomic convention holds, this variant will be

identified as Sarracenia alabamensis var. rubricorpora while the typical

variant with yellow pitchers will be identified as Sarracenia alabamensis

var. alabamensis.

In cultivation, Sarracenia alabamensis is an easy species. It is,

however, poorly adapted to colder climates, and its hybrids are

often indistinguishable from hybrids with members of the Sarracenia

Sarracenia alabamensis in cultivation.

rubra Complex. Infrequently, it can be found to have hybridized in

This variant has rather brilliant

the wild with Sarracenia alata. These hybrids are known as Sarracenia

coloration on its pitchers.

x ahlessi.



Sarracenia alata

Sarracenia alata is closely related to Sarracenia rubra, so much

so that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the two species in

cultivation. In the wild, Sarracenia alata and Sarracenia rubra are

readily distinguished as their ranges overlap only in a small

portion of Alabama, north of Mobile. In total, Sarracenia alata has

two geographically separate ranges. The eastern range extends

from the eastern Louisiana border to the middle of Alabama,

encompassing, mostly, southern Mississippi. The western range

extends from Big Thicket in Texas to just east of the western

Louisiana border, encompassing about the middle third of

Louisiana. Plants from both ranges have yellow flowers.

In its eastern range, Sarracenia alata grows in pine savannas

and seepage bogs. The soil is often sandy clay. In its western

range, Sarracenia alata grows, mostly, in oak savannas. In Big

Thicket and the surrounding area, however, Sarracenia alata grows

in pine savannas.

Recently, Sarracenia alata has been divided into the following

varieties, based almost entirely on the coloration of the pitchers:

var. alata - Yellow-green pitchers with slight red veining,

and, sometimes, hair on the outside of the pitchers. The

hairy versions are sometimes known as f. pubescens. This

variety is found in both ranges, however, west of the

Mississippi, this variety will often have a throat bulge,

which is not present in plants from east of the


var. atrorubra - Bright red pitchers which turn dark, A dark form of Sarracenia alata, probably

almost black as the pitchers age. This variety is found

Sarracenia alata var. rubrioperculata.

only in the eastern range.

var. cuprea - Yellow-green pitchers with a copper-top, like Sarracenia flava var. cuprea. This variety is

found only in the eastern range.

var. nigropurpurea - Dark-purple-to-almost-black pitchers that turn darker as the pitchers age. This

variety only grows in the eastern range.

var. ornata - As with other species var. ornata, these pitchers are heavily veined. This variety only grows

in the eastern range.

var. rubrioperculata - Yellow-green pitchers with dark purple, almost black coloration on the inner lid

and upper “mouth” of the pitcher. This variety only grows in the eastern range.

In cultivation, some growers have reported that Sarracenia alata var. atrorubra and Sarracenia alata var.

nigropurpurea can be confused, as their only distinguishing features are the darkness of color of the pitchers.

Furthermore, some unconfirmed reports have indicated that seedling offspring of Sarracenia alata var.

nigropurpurea can be lighter in color, replicating Sarracenia alata var. atrorubra. Therefore, I think more is needed

to distinguish these two varieties.



Sarracenia flava

Sarracenia flava var. ornata

The Yellow Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia flava, is a three to four foot (up to 120 centimeter) tall, columnar

pitcher that is often bright yellow in color with red patch on the pitcher column and is native to the

southeastern coastal plain, a swath of land stretching from eastern Alabama to southern Virginia. The flowers

are yellow. With such a large range, it is not surprising that this species, which favors savannas, has a number

of different color variations, which have been subdivided by botanists as follows:

var. atropurpurea - Entirely red pitchers. Native to the Atlantic coast.

var. cuprea - Yellow pitchers with a red blotch on the pitcher column and a copper

colored lid. Native to the Atlantic coast.

var. flava - Yellow pitchers with a red blotch on the pitcher column. Veins radiate

upwards and downwards from the blotch.

var. maxima - Green pitchers, but not anthocyanin free.

var. ornata - Yellow pitchers with heavy red veining throughout the pitcher.

var. rubricorpora - The entire exterior of the pitcher is red, but the inner lid and

inner tube are yellow. A red blotch is present on the pitcher column.

var. rugelii - Yellow-pitchers with a red blotch on the pitcher column. No veins are


Sarracenia flava is one of the largest and most common Sarracenia in cultivation. More

often than not, new growers obtain Sarracenia flava var. rugelii plants as their first Sarracenia

flava. Sarracenia flava var. ornata is also a popular variety of Sarracenia flava. Hybrids with

most varieties of Sarracenia flava typically exhibit a red blotch on the pitcher column,

Sarracenia flava

partway between the lid and mouth.

var. rugelii



Sarracenia leucophylla

A field of Sarracenia leucophylla. Sights like this were once common along the Gulf Coast.

The White Topped Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, is

a showy, Gulf Coast native known in the floral industry for

producing expensive, desirable pitchers. In the wild, it is

commonly found en masse in a peat-sand mixture. The red

flowers stand in strong contrast to the white pitchers left

over from last year’s growth. The species is so distinctive,

that it is easy to identify pure Sarracenia leucophylla or hybrids

with Sarracenia leucophylla.

Although several authors have attempted to identify

different varieties of Sarracenia leucophylla, the truth is that the

range of Sarracenia leucophylla is overlapped by a host of other

species, it flowers at a time that allows for overlap with other

species, and it often grows with other species, meaning very

few stands hold pure Sarracenia leucophylla. As a consequence,

it is virtually meaningless to designate varieties based on

color of venation or blushes of red or other colors on the

white, upper portions of the pitchers.

The one variety of Sarracenia leucophylla which seems

consistent, besides the anthocyanin-free variant is Sarracenia

leucophylla var. alba, which has a washed out, white top. No

veins are present. In addition to Sarracenia leucophylla var. alba,

Sarracenia leucophylla is currently unique in having one

cultivar, ‘Tarnok’, which produces double flowers.

Regarding hybrids, hybrids with Sarracenia leucophylla

Sarracenia leucophylla, possibly with

almost always have a ruffled lid and, often, white areoles.

Sarracenia rubra in its ancestory.



Sarracenia minor

Sarracenia minor in northeast Florida.

The Hooded Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia minor, is one of the easiest to

distinguish and least controversial of the Sarracenia. All forms have (mostly)

green pitchers with hoods that curve up, over the back of the pitcher and past

the mouth of the pitcher. The back of the hood and pitcher are covered with

prominent white areoles. The flowers are yellow. Its distribution stretches

from the Apalachicola National Forest to the Atlantic Ocean, and from

Orlando, Florida, to Wilmington, North Carolina. It is the most southern

Sarracenia, and, unsurprisingly, the least cold tolerant of all the species.

Sarracenia minor is traditionally divided into two varieties - var. minor and

var. okeefenokeensis. The division is entirely based on size. Sarracenia minor var.

minor is the smaller and shorter variety. Recently, an additional type - f.

viridescens - has been formally described. Sarracenia minor f. viridescens is, as with

all species of Sarracenia, the all-green ( i.e. anthocyanin free) form of the


Donald Schnell has made some effort to distinguish Sarracenia minor var.

okeefenokeensis from Sarracenia minor var. minor, noting in his 2002 Carnivorous

Plants of the United States and Canada that, even juvenile plants, from the Ware

Sarracenia minor and

County, Georgia/Okefenokee Swamp area are “just different,” producing Drosera intermedia growing

slimmer pitchers (as one might expect for taller plants) and commonly

in Okeefenokee Swamp.



Sarracenia minor with gradient coloration.

producing spring phyllodia. Having explored the Okefenokee Swamp and the area to its southeast extensively,

I remain unconvinced that the plants of Ware County are a separate variety. In my experience, the size of

Sarracenia minor plants was highly dependent upon microclimatic conditions, although plants from areas closer

to the Okefenokee Swamp were generally slightly larger, and some clones seemed more inclined to produce

phyllodia than others. For example, mature plants from near my home in St. Johns County, Florida, which

populated a drier pine wood on a golf course, would regularly produce pitchers about two feet (60 cm) tall.

Phyllodia were never present. In contrast, plants from another location half-a-mile away would produce

pitchers only a foot (30 cm) tall, and phyllodia would be produced in early summer.

As I mentioned in the Introduction, I regularly participated in plant rescues while living in Florida. As a

consequence, I grew Sarracenia minor sourced from at least a dozen homebuilding and business sites. In situ,

some plants would appear to have distinctive phenotypes. After growing those plants in near identical

cultivation conditions, i.e. a bog garden in my yard, nearly all of the plants reverted to looking like a typical

Sarracenia minor, although some did continue to produce phyllodia or grow larger than others. Therefore, I

am not yet convinced that enough fieldwork has been done on Sarracenia minor to merit a division of that

species into distinctive varieties. I believe more work needs to be done on Sarracenia minor, particularly those

growing in the swath of land southeast of the Okeefenokee Swamp before Sarracenia minor can be said to have

distinct varieties. Right now, there is simply too little fieldwork to substantiate a breakdown into varieties, and

recent genetic analysis has not revealed much, if any, genetic differentiation between plants identified as var.

minor and those identified as var. okeefenokeensis.



Sarracenia oreophila

Sarracenia oreophila is among

the rarest of Sarracenia, found

only in a few locations in

northeast Alabama. It has been

said to be easily confused with

Sarracenia flava, but historical

records show that botanists

have more often confused it





Sarracenia flava. Much like




oreophila has yellow flowers.








phyllodia in place of pitchers in

late summer as a consequence

of its native habitat seeing little

rainfall in late summer. These

phyllodia are unlike Sarracenia

flava’s phyllodia in that they are

strongly curved, not straight

and sword-shaped.











winters. In winter, Sarracenia

oreophila can see snow and cold

snaps to 0° F (-18° C). This

can, and sometimes does, result

in the clay-based, sandy soil of

the seepage bogs and streams

the species inhabits freezing

A particularily colorful Sarracenia oreophila.35

solid for several weeks.

There are two varieties of Sarracenia oreophila - var. oreophila and var. ornata. Sarracenia oreophila var. oreophila is the “typical” plant, green with light red veining on the pitcher. Sarracenia oreophila var. ornata is the more

heavily veined variety. The deep burgundy veins and “mouth” of Sarracenia oreophila var. ornata’s pitchers stand

in stark contrast to the rest of the pitcher, which is often suffused with a light, almost white, yellowish-green.

Unsurprisingly, growers find Sarracenia oreophila var. ornata more desirable than Sarracenia oreophila var. oreophila.

Although Sarracenia oreophila only grows one-to-two feet (30 - 60 cm) tall, hybrids with Sarracenia oreophila

as one of the parents often grow much taller than either parent. These also usually have prominent throat

bulges just below the pitcher lip. Hybrid offspring are also known for their cold-hardiness, a feature normally

reserved for hybrids with Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea.



Sarracenia psittacina

The aptly-named

Parrot Pitcher Plant,

Sarracenia psittacina, has

short pitchers shaped

like the head of a

parrot, which lay along

the ground. Its flowers

are red, except for the

“all green” anthocyanin

free variants. Sarracenia

psittacina prefers to grow

in areas that frequently

flood. This allows its

strange, Darlingtonia- like,

pitchers to “fish.” Most

of its prey consist of







creatures, although the

occasional fish has been

spotted. Aquatic prey is

helped along its path by

hairs that point in the

Sarracenia psittacenia in the wild, growing very near a lakeshore. It is not

opposite direction of

uncommon to find this species almost overrun by native grasses in the lower




portions of roadside ditches.



prevent escape.

Sarracenia psittacina is native to the Gulf Coast from the border of

Louisiana to the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida. From the

Apalachicola National Forest, the species grows north and east, into

Georgia, where its range extends east to the Okefenokee Swamp.

As with Sarracenia minor, Sarracenia psittacina is claimed to have a

larger variant grow within the confines of the Okefenokee Swamp. This

larger variant has been named var. okeefenokeensis. (The ordinarily

Sarracenia psittacenia is var. psittacina). Both varieties have associated all-

green ( i.e. anthocyanin free variants) - f. viridescens (for var. psittacenia) and

f. luteoviridis (for var. okeefenokeensis). Ordinarily, Sarracenia psittacina

pitchers are six-to-eight inches (15 - 20 cm) long. The larger varieties can

see pitchers up to 12 inches (30 cm) long.

Hybrids with Sarracenia psittacina usually grow pitchers that are

angled at about 45 degrees from the ground. Often, they possess

elongated, closed hoods, giving them a characteristic “bulbous” shape.

The most common hybrid is Sarracenia x formosa, which is a hybrid with

Sarracenia psittacenia

Sarracenia minor.



Sarracenia purpurea

More time has been spent attempting to determine the

correct division of Sarracenia purpurea into subspecies and

varieties than probably any other group of plants in the

genus Sarracenia. All members of the Sarracenia purpurea

Complex have short, decumbent pitchers, with the pitcher

opening curved upwards, to face the sky, and a hood which

does not cover the pitcher opening. Flowers are ordinarily

red, except for Sarracenia purpurea ssp. burkii, which produces

distinctive pink flowers. Research has found that no

members of this species produce digestive enzymes.

Historically, Sarracenia purpurea has been divided into

two subspecies - ssp. purpurea and ssp. venosa. Sarracenia

purpurea ssp. purpurea is the more northern of the two

subspecies. The difference between these two subspecies is

as follows:

1. The ratio of the length of the pitcher tube to

opening is 3:1 or greater in ssp. purpurea, but less

than 3:1 in ssp. venosa.

2. The outside of the pitcher is smooth and hairless

for ssp. purpurea, but has many short hairs for ssp.


3. The flowers are dark red in ssp. purpurea, but bright

red in ssp. venosa.

4. If the pitcher hood is pinched together, it will not

extend past the edges of the pitcher mouth for ssp.

purpurea, but will for ssp. venosa.

In the wild, these two subspecies overlap, and

hybridize in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In cultivation,

tissue cultured or commercially grown plants available at

retail stores are often hybrids between the two subspecies,

as hybrids often display a vigorous growth pattern and more

likely to keep good color throughout winter.

Traditionally, the other two members of Sarracenia

purpurea, identified as burkii and montana, have been relegated

to variety status within the subspecies venosa. Taxonomic

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea with an

analysis has also given rise to the identification of burkii as a

interesting color pattern. Field studies have

separate species, Sarracenia rosea. Recent genetic work has

shown signficant phenotypical variation

revealed, in fact, that these two members should be

between bogs for Sarracenia purpurea ssp.

identified as their own subspecies - Sarracenia purpurea ssp.


burkii and Sarracenia purpurea ssp. montana.

Sarraenia purpurea ssp. burkii is from the Gulf Coast region and is similar to Sarracenia purpurea ssp. venosa in

all respects except that it has a large, undulating hood and light pink flowers. Sarracenia purpurea ssp. montana is

from the Piedmont region of Georgia and North Carolina. It is genetically isolated from coastal populations



Sarracenia purpurea ssp. burkii

and has a hood which curves inwards at the top,

resulting in the sides nearly touching, and has

shorter hairs, and bright red venation with wider,

coarser veins than Sarracenia purpurea ssp. venosa.

Genetic analysis reveals that this subspecies is

probably the most ancient of the Sarracenia purpurea


Hybrids with Sarracenia purpurea usually

produce semi-erect pitchers, with pitchers open to

the sky. The hoods are often ruffled and provide

no protection from the rain. Frequently, hybrids

with ordinary Sarracenia purpurea plants will produce

offspring with dark red coloration, sometimes

darker than the parent Sarracenia purpurea.

Oftentimes, the hybrid progeny of Sarracenia

purpurea are poor insect catchers, and the pitchers

are prone to collapse or overflow if subjected to

heavy rains. This is especially true of hybrids

created with tall species, such as Sarracenia flava or

Sarracenia leucophylla. Hybrids with Sarracenia purpurea

are some of the most sought-after hybrids in the

collector market. The cold hardiness alongside the

often unique shape of the pitchers is highly


Sarracenia leucophylla x Saracenia purpurea ssp. burkii



Sarracenia rubra

The most complex Sarracenia species to

describe is Sarracenia rubra. Commonly known

as the “Sweet Pitcher Plant,” the only feature

that truly unites this species is its flower. All

subspecies of Sarracenia rubra have exactly the

same flower. These flowers are small, red, and

produce a sweet scent (hence its common

name). Unlike other species of Sarracenia,

members of the Sarracenia rubra Complex are

capable of producing two flowers per growing

point. (Most Sarracenia only produce one

flower per growing point).

The pitchers of the plants identified as

Sarracenia rubra vary considerably, leading many

authors to argue that there are a host of

different species with the same flower.

(Species are typically designated based on their

flower structure.) Geographically, the range of Sarracenia rubra ssp. gulfensis in the wild. This subspecies

Sarracenia rubra is fractured, with each different

can often be found growing in almost pure sand in

population having different looking pitchers.

permanently waterlogged areas.

I will follow the traditional subspecies divisions of the Sarracenia rubra Complex here -

ssp. gulfensis - This native to Florida’s Gulf Coast and Taylor County, Georgia, has 24 inch (61

centimeter) tall pitchers, sometimes with a noticeable bulge in the pitcher throat, as with ssp. jonesii.

The pitchers are generally yellow, but can be red, and an anthocyanin-free variant is known.

ssp. jonesii - This variety, from the Piedmont area of North and South Carolina has pitchers up to 24

inches (61 centimeters) tall, and is listed as federally endangered. (It is erroneously known as

Sarracenia jonesii). The pitchers are yellow and highly veined with a noticeable bulge in the pitcher

throat. There is an anthocyanin free variant of this variety.

ssp. rubra - This eastern seaboard native has pitchers up to 18 inches (46 centimeters) tall, and an

average pitcher to mouth ratio of 20:1. The pitchers are yellow and highly veined. It is the most

common variety in cultivation.

ssp. wherryi - This native to southwestern Alabama and eastern Mississippi is a shorter version of

Sarracenia alabamensis, only growing to 16 inches (40 centimeters) tall. It has even fainter fenestrations,

and is not bright yellow on the upper third of the pitcher.

In the wild, most members of the Sarracenia rubra Complex grow in exceptionally wet areas, compared to

other upright Sarracenia. (In one notable personal instance I found a stand near quicksand.) Like many of the

Sarracenia on the Gulf Coast, they prefer open grasslands over pine barrens (which are frequently inhabited by

Sarracenia minor and Sarracenia purpurea nearer the East Coast).

In cultivation, it is difficult to get members of the Sarracenia rubra Complex to achieve the large sizes seen

in the wild. In cultivation, most will only grow to about 18 inches (46 cm) tall.. Furthermore, in cultivation, it

has been noted that many subspecies appear less distinct from one another than they do in the wild. The

reason for this is probably due to different habits exerting different pressures on the plants than would be

seen in one, homogenous habitat.