Information About the North American Hooded Pitcher Plant


The hooded pitcher plant, Sarracenia minor, is a carnivorous plant native to spaghnum bogs of the southeastern United States. Like other pitcher plants, it attracts insects to the mouth of its funnel-like leaf structures. The insects slip into the pitcher, die and are digested to provide minerals to the plant.


The leaves form long, narrow tubes surmounted by a distinct hood that looks a bit like a duck's bill. The color may be green or reddish. Depending on the area of the country it is found, the pitchers can be from 11 inches to more than 2 1/2 feet tall. The largest are found in the Okefenokee swamp in southeastern Georgia. Each pitcher has a spotting of translucent ovals behind the hood. These seem to trick the insects that enter into thinking that they can fly out through these brightly lit "windows." The flowers are yellow, downward facing and have an unpleasant odor. They are borne on stalks approximately as tall as the pitchers.


The hooded pitcher plant is found in open bogs that are slightly drier than those inhabited by other pitcher plants in the area. The soil is very acid, making nutrients difficult to absorb by the roots alone. It prefers full sun.

Trapping Insects

The top of the hood has glands that secrete a nectar to attract insects into the hood. The reddish or purplish color may also act as an attractant. The lip of the pitcher is coated with a waxy substance that causes the insect to slip down into the tube The narrow pitcher is lined with hairs that point downward, making it difficult for an insect to move back up. The prey eventually drops into the pool of digestive enzymes at the base of the pitcher and drowns.


A wide variety of bacteria live in the fluid and provide the enzymes that help digest the soft parts of the insects. Formic acid from previously trapped ants may also assist in digestion.


Sarracenia minor and various hybrids are available as cultivated plants. It is illegal to collect specimens in the wild. They need seasonal variations in temperature, from warm summers in the 90 degree range to winters dipping below freezing. A sphagnum or peat moss potting mix is best, with regular watering from the top to prevent build up of salts and increase its oxygen levels.

Keywords: Sarracenia minor, hooded pitcher plant, pitcher plant cultivation

About this Author

Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.