Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Green Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia oreophila)

Green Pitcher Plant. Credit: USFWS

Green Pitcher Plant. Credit: USFWS

Family: Pitcher Plant (Sarraceniaceae)

Federal Status: Endangered, listed September 21, 1979

Best Search Time: Late-April through October

Description: Green pitcher plant is a carnivorous perennial herb with yellowish-green, hollow, pitcher-shaped leaves. The hollow leaves contain liquid and enzymes. When insects fall into the pitchers, they’re digested and the nutrients in the bodies are incorporated into the plant’s tissues. The evolutionary role of carnivory in such plants is not fully understood, but some evidence indicates that absorption of minerals from insect prey may allow carnivorous species to compete in nutrient-poor habitats.

The green pitcher plant’s unusual yellow flowers appear from mid-April to early June and are borne singly on long stems. Flowering plants grow up to 28 inches (71 centimeters) tall. Green pitcher plants reproduce both sexually (by seed) and asexually (by root extensions); however, the asexual mode of reproduction appears to be the principal one. The rhizomes of this species are extremely long-lived (decades), so natural mortality is low. Green pitcher plants are pollinated by queen bumblebees, and since bumblebees have a flight radius of no more than one mile, most green pitcher plan populations are essentially genetically isolated by distance. Changes in flowering and growth appear to be related primarily to weather conditions, particularly rainfall. Seedlings require high soil moisture, open mineral soil, and high light intensity for growth during the first year. These conditions are not met at most sites due to past hydrological alterations, which have made the soils unnaturally dry, and the absence of fire, which has allowed other plants to encroach upon and shade out habitat.

Habitat: The habitat for Green pitcher plant varies somewhat, from moist upland areas and seepage bogs to boggy stream banks. Historically, naturally occurring fire appears to have played a major role in the maintenance of populations in the upland sites.

map of Green Pitcher Plant distribution in North Carolina

Map of Green Pitcher Plant distribution in North Carolina.

Distribution: Green pitcher plant is known from a handful of counties in northeastern Georgia, southwestern North Carolina, and northeastern Alabama.

References:

Buchanan, M.F. and J.T. Finnegan. 2010. Natural Heritage Program List of the Rare Plant Species of North Carolina. N.C. Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994. Green Pitcher Plant Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jackson, Mississippi. 23 pp.

For More Information on Green Pitcher Plant...

Species Contact:

Mara Alexander, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, 828-258-3939 ext. 238

Species profile revised on September 15, 2011.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012