Blooming Pitcher Plants

We arrived a little too early in the season on our recent trip to Carolina Beach State Park to see any of the carnivorous plants it’s famous for. Honestly, I was a little bummed I hadn’t planned better.

I was about to write the trip off as a loss when I spotted some funny-looking yellow flowers. Both girls crowded around me and asked: what are those?

Those are blooming pitcher plants.

More specifically, they are the flowers of Sarracenia flava, commonly known as the yellow pitcher plant.

The yellow pitcher plant is one of the 66 species of carnivorous plants native to the United States. Its range runs from Virginia down to Florida.

Found in savannas, bogs, and pocosins, the plant prefers dense waterlogged soil with a high acid content and low nitrogen. In order to thrive under those conditions, the pitcher plant depends on insects for nutrients.

The yellow pitcher plant attracts bugs with droplets of nectar. As the bug makes its way down the rolled leaf tube that resembles a pitcher, it gets trapped in tiny downward-facing hairs forcing it to fall into a pool of digestive enzymes.

Over its growing season, the yellow pitcher plant can reach a height of 3 feet. It stops producing carnivorous leaves in the autumn and goes dormant over the winter.

In the spring, yellow flowers emerge before the leaves reappear. The flowers are unique, with their strappy petals dangling beneath an umbrella-shaped bloom.

Blooming pitcher plants are notorious for smelling like cat-urine. They sure are pretty, though!

Have you ever seen a blooming pitcher plant before?

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