Carnivorous plants might seem like tropical, but they grow throughout the United States, including the New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut). Since they like to grow in acidic habitats in nutrient-poor soil, which typically means marshy bogs, be prepared to get your feet wet if you go looking for one of the four different varieties found in the Northeast.
The common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris L.) is a upright perennial about 6 inches tall. In the summer, it produces a small blue to purple flower. It grows in the wetlands of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The butterwort is listed as threatened in Maine and endangered in New Hampshire. It catches insects on its flypaper-like leaves that are covered with hairs and a thick, sticky mucilage.
Purple Pitcher Plant
The purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) grows in the wetlands of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It grows about 6 to 12 inches tall with a similar width. Its leaves vary in color in shades of red, purple and green. The purple pitcher is a pitfall plant, which means its leaves curl into deep pools that fill with digestive enzymes. Hairs on the leaves encourage insects to crawl downward. The pitchers are topped with frilly, triangular-shaped leaves that help distinguish it from other pitcher plants.
Sundews (Drosera spp.) are covered with sticky hairs that trap their prey, then slowly roll up the edges of the leaves to begin digestion. In New England, sundews are small, ranging in size from 1 to 10 inches (depending on the variety). They produce small flowers in the summer about a 1/2 inch long. It typically grows in wetland bogs.
Only five of the more than 150 species of sundew can be found in New England. The English sundew (Drosera angelica) and slenderleaf sundew (Drosera linearis) can be found in Maine but are listed as endangered. The threadleaf sundew (Drosera filiformis) can be found in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The spoonleaf sundew (Drosera intermedia) and roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) can be found in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Bladderworts (Utricularia spp.) typically grow in the open waters of nutrient-poor bog lakes throughout New England. They grow about 8 inches tall and produce small flowers in a variety of colors (usually yellow or purple) that can be seen rising out of the water. The carnivorous action happens under the surface where it uses whorled, bladder-shaped leaves to suck in passing insects that trigger sensitive hairs on the plant.
Twelve varieties of bladderwort can be found in New England. Of these, nine can be found in all six states: horned (U. cornuta), hiddenfruit (U. geminiscapa), humped (U. gibba L.), flatleaf (U. intermedia), common (U. macrorhiza), lesser (U. ularia minor L.), Eastern purple (U. purpurea), little floating (U. radiata), and lavender bladderwort (U. resupinata). Striped bladderwort (U. striata) can be only be found in Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Zigzag bladderwort (U. subulata) can be only be found in Maine and Rhode Island; Swollen bladderwort (U. inflata) can only be found in Maine.