PLANT OF THE WEEK: White Top Pitcher Plant

By on February 10, 2012.

With stormwater management and rain gardens becoming more prevalent in design, incorporating aquatic plants into designs is a necessity. Our plant of week is part of the Sarracenia genus and can add texture, color and distinct didactic forms to both residences and preserves.

Sarracenia luecophylla- This species is native to northwest Florida and belongs to a class of carnivorous plants that can form sweeping masses on inundated flatwoods.

  • Size/Habit/Lifetime: Herbaceous semi-aquatic perennial located in panhandle Florida, Georgia over to the MIssissippi basin. Native to wet flatwoods, acidic bogs, low lying coastal areas and seeps (areas where groundwater puddles and drains over existing hard pans that prevents infiltration). 6 inches to 3 ft tall, planting on 12” centers should suffice. Will die back and resprout after winter.
  • Culture: As a genus, Sarracenia  occurs in zones 2 – 9. Many species and varieties exist, but all are restricted to moist environment with full to partial sun, particularly high pine canopies. Soils should be acidic and high in organic matter. Fill soils of humus or peat moss allow transplanting into low lying, wetter areas. S luecophylla is native  zones 7-9. S. purpurea occurs north of USDA Zone 6
  • Leaf/Stem: The most notable feature, its pitcher, is a modified leaf that functions to trap prey in its tube with fine hairs and sticky wax. This aids inhabiting low nutrient environments.  S. leucophylla  literally means white leaf and the color varies slightly within the species but offers light green leaves changing to white with bright crimson leaf veins. Eye-popping details!
  • Flower/Fruit: The flower, like the pitchers are very unique. Flowering in early spring before pitcher leafs develop, the orchid like, upside down flower is a deep red with yellowish highlights. Usually on stems 18-30 in high. Designed to inhibit self-propagation, seeds from cross pollination must be stratified over wintering.
  • Use: Best as large swaths of color and texture in preserved wetland areas. A conversation piece in residential landscapes if sited well as described above.
  • Notable facts: There are many Sarracenia species within the genus, mostly tropical in the southeast US and some species are becoming threatened. Can be  used in floral arrangements if cut before the pitcher opens, adding shape and color.