skip to content
Dozens of green plants in the shape of a pitcher.
Information icon Clump of green pitcher plants. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Green pitcher plant

Sarracenia oreophila

Appearance

The green pitcher plant has yellowish-green, hollow, pitcher-shaped leaves with unusual yellow flowers, which appear from mid-April to early June and are borne singly on long stems. Flowering plants grow up to 28 inches 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 (rootstalks) of this species are extremely long-lived (decades), so natural mortality is low.

A star shaped flower matching the same color green as the pitcher plant below
Green pitcher plant flower rising above pitchers. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Green pitcher plants are pollinated by queen bumblebees, and since bumblebees have a flight radius of no more than one mile, most green pitcher plant 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 hydrology changes, 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 of this 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.

A brown butterfly rests on the top of a pitcher plant.
Butterfly rests on a green pitcher plant. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Diet

The plant’s 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.

A brown butterfly rests on the top of a pitcher plant.
Butterfly rests on a green pitcher plant. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Range

Historically, the green pitcher plant grew in four states (Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee) in five different provinces: Cumberland Plateau, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, Ridge and Valley, and Coastal Plain. Today, green pitcher plant is known from a handful of counties in northeast Georgia, southwest North Carolina, and northeast Alabama. In North Carolina, its range is limited to Clay County.

Conservation challenges

Green pitcher plant populations have been destroyed by increased residential and agricultural development; shrub and tree encroachment due to fire suppression; commercial and amateur collecting of live plants; and drainage and impoundment of wetland habitat.

Recovery plan

This species will be considered for delisting when a minimum of 18 viable populations, representing the diversity of habitats and the geographic range of the species, are protected and managed as necessary to ensure their continued existence. Colonies should also include the wide spectrum of current genetic variation found in the species. Of the 18 populations, at least three colonies should be located within each of the following four geographic areas: Coosa Valley, Lookout Mountain, Sand Mountain (East), Sand Mountain (West), and Lake Chatuge. Viability of populations should be confirmed for at least a 20-year period through monitoring.

Download the 1994 revision of the recovery plan.

A biologist kneels to the ground with a hand-held counter to count individual pitchers.
Claire Ellwanger of TNC counts pitcher plants. Photo by Gary Peeples, USFWS.

How you can help

  • Tread lightly and stay on designated trails.
  • Visit arboretums, botanical gardens, and parks and learn all you can about endangered plants and the causes of their declines.
  • Don’t collect or buy plants collected from wild populations.
  • Participate in the protection of our remaining wild lands and the restoration of damaged ecosystems.
  • Support wetland protection efforts at local, state, and national levels.
  • Establish and maintain forested stream-side buffers. Several federal, state, and private programs are available to assist landowners, both technically and - financially, with restoring and protecting stream-side buffers and eroding streams.
  • Implement and maintain measures for controlling erosion and stormwater during and after land-clearing and disturbance activities. Excess soil in our streams - from erosion is one of the greatest water pollution problems we have today.
  • Be careful with the use and disposal of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. Remember, what you put on your land or dump down the drain may - eventually wind up in nearby water.
  • Support local, state and national clean water legislation.
  • Report illegal dumping activities, erosion, and sedimentation problems. These activities affect the quality of our water, for drinking, fishing, and swimming.

Subject matter experts

Designated critical habitat

No critical habitat has been designated.

Federal register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

Contact Us:

Looking for a media contact? Reach out to a regional spokesperson.

Share this page

Tweet this page on Twitter or follow @USFWSsoutheast

Share this page on Facebook or follow USFWSsoutheast.

LinkedIn

Share this page on LinkedIn