Carnivorous Plants in California

The unique mountain climate of Northern California, with its extensive evergreen forests, constant rainfall and mild temperatures, has allowed some carnivorous plant species to thrive. In shallow depressions along the mountain ranges fir and pine needles build up in soggy soil, which creates an acidic peat that is perfect for the development of carnivorous plant life.

California Pitcher Plant

California Pitcher Plant also known as the cobra plant (scientific name Darlingtonia californica) is native only to Northern California and southern Oregon along the coastal mountain range. It grows in boggy areas that receive cool mountain runoff water, usually in places near streams that are slightly sheltered from the weather. This species demands absolutely clean water. The California pitcher plant has inflated tube-like leaves that are covered with an inflated hood. At the base of the hood is an opening where insects enter the leaf. Sticking out from the opening is a forked bract that resembles a snake tongue, which is where this plant gets its name. When an insect enters the leaf, it gets forced down the slippery inside of the tube to a a waiting pool of water where it drowns and is digested by the plant.

Purple Pitcher Plant

The purple pitcher plant (scientific name Sarracenia purpurea) is not native to California, but it has been introduced there. It grows in conditions very similar to the California pitcher plant and survives all but the most extreme freezes. This plant has the widest range of all of the North American pitcher plants. Purple pitcher plants are green to purple and some are green with purple veins. They look more like a standard pitcher plant with an open top and a flared hood.

California Butterwort

The California butterwort (scientific name Pinguicula macroceras) is native to most of the west coast of the United States and areas of Japan. It thrives in the same areas as the California pitcher plant, often right next to it. These plants prefer cool areas at an elevation of about 300 feet but sometimes much higher. They prefer boggy areas but are sometimes seen in wet meadows near running water. Butterworts are the flypaper of the plant world. They have short flat pale yellow-green leaves that are covered with a sticky substance. When an insect lands on them they get stuck and are eventually digested by the plant.

Keywords: cobra plant, California pitcher plant, California butterwort, darlingtonia Californica

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.