Carnivorous Plants in Wetlands

Carnivorous plants have adapted the ability to trap and digest insects to compensate for the poor soils in their wetland habitats. Most carnivorous plants can be adapted to home cultivation as long as there is enough light, water and humidity, and the temperature range is similar to their natural environment.

Round Leaf Sundew

The round leaf sundew (scientific name Drosera rotundifolia) is a carnivorous plant native to the North American wetlands from Florida to as far north as Greenland and Alaska. It also occurs in Asia and Europe. Although the range of the plant is large, it is limited to a handful of small wetland locations in each area where it grows in continually moist to saturated sphagnum and peat bogs in full sun. The round leaf sundew is a small, flat-growing rosette plant about 1 to 3 inches in diameter. The leaves are rounded and spatula shaped. They are covered with small hairs that are topped with a drop of super-sticky nectar. When an insect is attracted to the nectar, it lands, becomes hopelessly mired in the sticky dew and dies. The leaf curls around its prey and slowly digests it. Round leaf sundews produce numerous small white flowers in 10-inch-tall stalks from the center of the rosette in late summer and early fall.

Sun Pitcher

Sun pitchers are tropical high-altitude carnivorous plants from South America. There are eight species in this genus, Heliamphora. They grow in the wetland areas at the tops of several isolated table-top mountains in Venezuela called tepuis. Here they get very intense direct tropical sun, daily heavy rainfall, constant mist and high humidity levels. The tepuis are solid rock and have very little soil due to rain erosion. Small colonies of plants form along pools and streams where the debris collects in crags and crevices. Night temperatures can drop to the mid 40s because the mountains are at an elevation of 2,000 to 3,300 feet. Sun pitchers use a pitfall trap like other carnivorous pitcher plants. The upright leaves are modified to form a tube with slippery surfaces. The insects are lured in by nectar that is produced at the top of the pitcher and then fall into the digestive liquid in the bottom of the leaf. Because of the high winds on the top of the tepuis, most sun pitchers stay short, below 12 inches. The leaves of most species are green, flushed with reds and pinks.

White-Topped Pitcher Plant

The white-topped pitcher plant (scientific name Sarracenia leucophylla) is native to the open areas of the pine barrens and boggy wetlands of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It grows on the edge of the pines in full sun often on floating mats of peat. The pine barrens are prone to seasonal fires that help clear the habitat and sterilize the ground. After a burn, these pitchers colonize the area. White-topped pitcher plants produce tall slender pitchers that taper to a flare at the top. They are green toward the base and become white, veined with red or green at the top. The top of the pitcher produces a nectar that attracts the prey, and they fall into the leaf and are digested by the plant. The interior of the pitcher is covered with fine downward-pointing hairs that prevent escape.

Keywords: roud leaf sundew, sun pitcher, heliamphora, sarracenia leucophylla

About this Author

Brian Albert has been in the publishing industry since 1999. He is an expert in horticulture, with a focus on aquatics and tropical plants like orchids. He has successfully run an aquatic plant business for the last five years. Albert's writing experience includes the Greater Portland Aquarium Society newsletter and politics coverage for a variety of online journals.