In many ways, pitcher plants seem like something out of a science fiction or horror movie. These plants are shaped like literal pitchers, and they consume living creatures--generally insects, but some species do trap rats and small birds--to supplement the nutrients that they get from the soil, sun and air. Pitcher plants should never be collected in the wild because many species are rare and endangered.
Pitcher plants have tube-shaped leaves that look very similar to water pitchers. These leaves collect moisture and hold a sweet, attractive substance that draws insects to the plant. Pitcher plants range in color from pale yellow to dark green and may have red veins and patterning on their leaves.
Pitcher plants attract insects into their tubular leaves using a sweet substance. Once the insects are inside the leaf, slippery sides lined with downward-pointing hairs keep the insects or other prey trapped in the "pitcher." If they do not drown in the liquid at the bottom, they will eventually be digested alive and the plant will absorb the nutrients from their bodies.
There are many different types of pitcher plant. They are mostly native to North America. Hooded pitcher plants, white-topped pitcher plants, trumpet pitcher plants and parrot pitcher plants may all be found in nitrogen-poor soils throughout North America.
Pitcher plants are easy to spot because their leaves are shaped like tubes and hold liquid in the bottom. However, different pitcher plants can be distinguished from each other by the forms of the pitcher. For example, hooded pitcher plants have a "covering" over the top of the leaf. Norther pitcher plants' pitchers have red outsides and green, red-veined insides. Parrot pitcher plants have red veins and white-rimmed holes in the leaves, while trumpet pitcher plants smell sweet and are a dark maroon color.
Many people think that because carnivorous plants can catch their food, they can grow anywhere. In reality, however, they prefer nitrogen-poor soils such as those found in bogs. They need lots of sunshine and saturated soil. Without these conditions, even if a pitcher plant has lots of prey, it will probably still not survive.
It is inadvisable and even illegal in some areas to collect pitcher plants in the wild. Not only are these plants difficult to raise in captivity, but many species are endangered. Do not ever collect a pitcher plant from the wild without making sure that you are able to care for it and that you can legally do so.