Sarracenia (unspecified)

Sarracenia  • 

Photo: Sarracenia (unspecified)

Sarracenia (unspecified)
Sarracenia (unspecified)


Collectors Corner Fact Sheet

The Sarracenia plants are a favourite among collectors because of their beauty and ease of growing, especially in southern Australia. They grow natively in North America, on the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida, and along the east coast from Florida into Canada. Most of the upright species look like clumps of erect trumpets sticking out of the growth area - hence the common name, Trumpet Pitcher, for this genus. The plant has no rapidly moving parts; only its natural growth. They are a passive trap in that they don't move to catch their prey, as with all other types of pitcher plants. The insects are attracted by the colour of the pitchers and their nectar secretion. Some species exude an amazing variety of chemicals, including digestive enzymes, wetting agents, and insect narcotics! The inside of a pitcher is covered in minute downward-pointing hairs making it extremely slippery; a foothold is impossible, and the space in there is far too restrictive to allow an insect to fly out. A fly meets it's doom, while more insects line up! There are eight Sarracenia species - and many hybrids. The species names are as follows: Sarracenia alata has a rounded lid - green with either no venation or some red veins. Its flower has near-white to lemon coloured petals. There are three forms. one produces green pitchers with inconspicuous veins, and another has bright red inside the lid and column - this can extend to the outside. The third form has fine hair covering the whole of the outside of the pitcher. Sarracenia flava is a yellow/green background colour, with a lid that folds back on itself. It is a fine species when at its peak in October/November (in Australia). Each plant produces a few large pitchers, and then from December on, the colour fades and the new pitchers become progressively smaller. The late-summer leaves are flat and uninteresting. One variety is plain green, another has a red throat patch, and another has a coppery tan colour on the upper pitcher and lid. The heavily-veined variety is red-veined all over, and a rare variety is deep red all over. The colour varieties are consistent and appear year after year, and are carried into the hybrids. The full colourings are present only on plants in full sunlight, and then only for a relatively short time. The scented large yellow flowers are impressive and attractive.

Sarracenia Leucophylla
Sarracenia leucophylla the white topped pitcher, with striking red venation and bright red petals on the flowers of most of its forms. This plant has two distinct growing periods during the year: these are the spring and the autumn - there is little or no noticeable growth during the summer months. Of course, as for all Sarracenia, winter is their dormancy time. This tall-growing species has some main varieties with minor variations of vein colour and hood shape - making it a fairly varied plant. The most common variety has pitchers that are green at the base, but the hood and upper part of the pitcher is white with green and red veins. Another one has smaller pitchers that are dark crimson and the white area is reduced - it is as vigorous as the common form. A third variety is rare, and is less vigorous than the others - its flower is a pure clear yellow. Its pitchers are pale green and the tops white with some light green venation. It looks like an albino, except that there is some red pigmentation on the new growth and old pitchers. A further variety has the pitchers covered with very fine downward-pointing hair. Sarracenia minor. This stable species has a character of its own - interesting pitchers with translucent spots like windows (fenestration) on a coppery coloured domed hood. The hood covers the top and is open at the front. There are two varieties. The main one grows from 15 to 20 cm tall, while the other (originating from the Okefenokee Swamp) grows to twice the height with more slender pitchers that are harder in texture. This species makes its main growth in the spring and early summer. Its flower has yellow petals. It produces longer and stronger roots than the other Sarracenia species - this characteristic extends to some of its hybrids. Sarracenia oreophila has a green pitcher with a lid like S. flava, but has phyllodia (crescent-shaped non-carnivorous leaves) in winter. Some forms are veined while others are quite pale. Its flower has strap-shaped lemon coloured petals, smaller than S. flava with a sweet but weaker scent. Sarracenia psittacina is a prostrate plant - the pitchers have a lid shaped like parrot's beak, simulates a lobster-pot function for its trapping mechanism. An insect enters the horizontal pitcher through a round hole, and will hardly ever find the way out - it will probably go into the thin one-way part of the pitcher, and die. In the natural environment for this species the plants can be totally submerged in water for months at a time: the lobster-pot trap is at least as capable of catching aquatic prey as it is for trapping air-breathing creatures when above the water level. Its small flower has red petals, produced on a tall stem. Sarracenia purpurea is a prostrate plant - green to maroon depending on sunlight. Plants of his species have a hood that is meant to catch rain water, and keep the pitchers substantially filled. The insects drown in these pitchers. There are two subspecies.

Sarracenia Purpurea
Sarracenia purpurea ssp. venosa. This southern plant has large pitchers that are finely hairy on the outside. There are some colour forms. The more common one, when grown in full sunlight, has green pitchers with purple venation and a large wavy-edged hood. Another form has deep reddish purple pitchers, especially in winter. Other varieties have various types of enlargement of the nectar roll of the pitcher. The flowers of these red-coloured plants have bright red petals. One yellow/green form has no red venation or red colouring, and yellow petals on its flowers. Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea. This northern plant has pitchers with a smaller, less frilly hood. Their outer surface is slippery smooth. In full sunlight the pitchers are dark red coloured. The flower colour is maroon. One yellow/green form, S. purpurea ssp. purpurea f. heterophylla, has no red venation or red colouring, and yellow petals on its flowers. Intermediate forms, which have pale pitchers with some red venation, produce orange flowers. Sarracenia rubra. This is the most variable of the Sarracenia species, with five subspecies. The species has two separate growing seasons during the year - these are in the spring and the autumn. In the autumn the pitcher growth is larger and considered much more representative of the subspecies as appropriate. The summer is a time when there is very little growth. Sarracenia rubra ssp. rubra is the typical plant having slender pitchers with dark veins. It seems to favour a drier compost than the other species. Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii differs from the typical plant by having taller pitchers that are expanded at the top. Three colour forms are known. One, the heterophylla form, has pitchers of a pure yellow/green, and has yellow flowers. Another has is a pale-looking intermediate with maroon flowers. The third is the darker typical form. The flowers of each form are sweet-scented. Sarracenia rubra ssp. gulfensis has taller stout pitchers that are a dull reddish colour with faint venation. It can grow as tall as the larger Sarracenia species, grows easily and flowers freely. The flower is similar to the typical S. rubra. Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis has pitchers that are generally pale, but with a distinct yellow colouration of the pitchers. In the autumn these pitchers are very tall and expanded. The deep red veins can be seen on the inside of the pitcher and column but less noticeable on the outside. The flower is similar to the typical S. rubra. Sarracenia rubra ssp. wherryi resembles S. rubra ssp. alabamensis, but seems to be a bit more active over summer. It is easier to grow, and its pitchers are a bit darker than ssp. alabamensis. The flower is similar to the typical S. rubra. The Sarracenia species can be divided into two distinct groupings - the prostrate plants, where the pitchers lie on the ground for all or most of their length (S. purpurea and S. psittacina comprise this group), and the tall upright plants (the other six of the above-mentioned species). The upright species of Sarracenia can grow up to a metre tall (S. minor and S. rubra are smaller versions of this), and would then have large openings. The lids of the upright pitchers are meant to prevent rain from getting into the pitchers. In these plants the digestion is a dry bacterial process.


Pots - 4 - 10 inch depending on the species
Compost - A 4:1 mixture of good quality sphagnum peat and washed coarse sand
Climate - cool temperate - warm temperate depending on species
Light - full sun with a little shade
Water - sit in a tray of soft or rainwater water 3cm deep except in winter.In winter keep the compost moist
Propagation - Division of rhizome,seed is also used when large numbers are needed but takes longer to get a mature plant.

All the species of Sarracenia may be grown outdoors in Melbourne which has a temperate climate, as our conditions are similar to their native environment. These plants expect, and benefit from, the cold conditions of winter, in order to have their dormancy period - the compost should be kept moist at this time. Sarracenia plants should be protected from the strong winds, however. In summer the plants should not be exposed to the hot afternoon sunlight - but do require good lighting conditions to produce their red colouring. Spring brings new growth, and if the plant is mature (2 to 3 years) should flower. The flowers are on long vertical stems and may be as large as a man's fist. Dead brown pitchers should be trimmed off - especially just before spring.

Rhizome propagation technique

The following practices are recommended for the propagation of Sarracenia plants: pots filled to level with the top with Sarracenia compost. When dividing rhizomes use a sharp knife wherever possible and dust the cut or broken ends with a fungicide powder. Plant the rhizomes so that any cut ends are below the surface of the compost. 2 cm of water in the tray during winter; 3 cm (1ΒΌ") deep the rest of the year. Use large pots to obtain large plants. Plug the drainage holes inside the pots with a permanent water-passing substance, like rock wool or similar, so that the compost cannot escape from the bottom of the pot. And when is the best time of the year for dividing and/or repotting Sarracenia plants? Any time of the year. Admittedly late winter and very early spring are usually recommended, because there is a difficulty of causing damage to very tender growth of flower stems and pitchers at other times of the growing season. That's okay, but if one is prepared to be very careful and treat the new growth with the respect it deserves, there is no perceived problem in doing the job at any time - whenever the need is observed. In hot times, like summer, work in the shade and it is vital that the process be completed quickly with plenty of water on hand to keep the exposed roots moist at all times, and with the new compost fairly wet. When using the methods described above, there is little risk of losing plants to fungus infection or dehydration. A further great fascination for the Sarracenia collector is the ever-increasing number of beautiful hybrids. The species in the Sarracenia genus are easily crossed. Desirable qualities of colour and form can be combined by cross-pollination to produce exciting new plants. Many breeders have had success in producing desirable hybrids. All the species are endangered, because of wide-scale habitat destruction - S. purpurea less so. Recently, pitcher collection for the floral arrangement industry is posing new problems. Field collection of rare forms by collectors has wiped out some stands of plants. These plants require a winter dormancy period of decreased moisture, light, and temperatures. The species S. oreophila, S. rubra ssp. jonesii, and S. purpurea ssp. purpurea expect cold weather, even frosts, during the winter.



1 - 20 cm
Soil type
Full sun, Partial shade
Needs protection