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Native California Carnivorous Plants

While several different species of carnivorous plants are found only in Pacific states, most of the native California carnivorous plants are also native to other parts of the United States, Canada and Central America. Carnivorous plants occur most frequently in bogs, swamps, standing water and wetland environments, and make up for poor nutrient or soil conditions by capturing and devouring prey. Carnivorous plants use a variety of methods, employing liquids which drown the prey or sticky substances in which insects become ensnared.

California pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica

Also known as the cobra lily, the California pitcher plant grows in swamps and bogs along the Pacific coast as far north as British Columbia. The plant’s clusters of red-mottled “pitchers” grow straight up from the plant’s base, forming a hood at the top to resemble a cobra snake. Insects that wander into the pitchers drown and are consumed using digestive enzymes in the fluid.

Roundleaf sundew, Drosera rotundifolia

While it occurs in California, the roundleaf sundew’s native range also includes most of the eastern United States, the Pacific northwest, all of Canada and one isolated location in Colorado. It grows primarily in bogs and swampy areas. The plant traps insects using a sticky substance on the hairs of its leaves, which then fold around the prey in order to digest it.

English sundew, Drosera anglica

A close relative of the roundleaf sundew, English sundew grows in many of the same places as the roundleaf but is absent in most of the eastern half of the United States. Like its cousin, the English sundew uses a sticky substance on its leaves to trap and devour prey. Drosera x obovata, a hybrid of the two varieties, also exists where the two plants grow together though the resulting plant itself is sterile.

California butterwort, Pinguicula macroceras

A member of the bladderwort carnivorous plant family, the California butterwort is identifiable by violet-like flowers that emerge on stalks from the main rosette of leaves. The plant is extremely endangered, and occurs only in scattered locations in northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

California butterwort, Pinguicula macroceras subsp. nortensis

This is a subspecies of California butterwort that grows only along the California-Oregon border. It can be found growing alongside sundews, pitcher plants and native orchid varieties.

Humped bladderwort, Utricularia gibba

Found from northern California to British Columbia and also in locations throughout the southeastern United States and Central America, this carnivorous aquatic plant grows without roots in lakes, along lakeshores and other muddy wetlands. The submerged leaves feature small bladders which trap invertebrate animals using one-way valves, after which the prey is digested using enzymes. Humped bladderwort has flat yellow flowers which grow on stalks above the waterline.

Flat-leaved bladderwort, Utricularia intermedia

Occurring in the same range as the humped bladderwort, this slightly larger relative also grows in water and uses tiny bladder chambers to trap and devour prey. This plant also has yellow flowers which grow above the waterline.

Common bladderwort, Utricularia macrorhiza

This is among the largest bladderworts, and occurs everywhere in the United States except Mississippi. It grows suspended in water, with flat, branch-like leaves and large purple or green bladders for trapping prey. The flower, while still yellow, is much larger and more orchid-like than its smaller cousins.

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