Carnivorous plants have turned the tables on food webs. Rather than insects munching on plants, these plants chow down on insects.
The “traps” of yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava) – one of several carnivorous plant species native to the Southeast — are actually modified leaves. The flap (or operculum) prevents rain from entering the pitcher. The opening to the pitcher lures insects with nectar, but any bug that reaps the sweet reward will find a very slippery surface. Plop!! There it goes into the digestive fluids at the bottom of the trap.
In North Carolina, the yellow pitcher plant can be found in coastal wetlands as well as further inland in the Piedmont and mountain regions. Unfortunately, many other species of carnivorous plants are threatened or endangered as a result of wetland habitat destruction and over-harvesting by collectors.
Care to admire the pitcher plant’s ferocious beauty up close? If you live in the Triangle region of NC, you can check out pitcher plants growing in the rain garden at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Prairie Ridge EcoStation or at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. Those willing to venture a bit further can see them growing in the boggy soils at Carolina Beach State Park.