Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Recently, my wife and I visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA. It was a favorite place of ours to visit when we lived in Williamsburg. It has a beautiful rose garden as well as a wonderful lake with some nice wooded gardens. And the conservancy is one of the key features.
But on this visit we saw something new and wonderful. Part of the lake is now a wetland garden with a prize collection of pitcher plants. Not as well renowned as their friends the Venus flytraps, pitcher plants are also carnivorous plants that collect and digest insects to make up for the low-nutrient soil they grow in. From the Botanical Society of America, I learned that there are many different types of pitcher plants in several different orders while there is only one flytrap species.All pitcher plants have a large tube that attracts the insect. Once inside the pitcher, or pitfall trap, the insect is unable to escape and falls into a pool of digestive juices. The insides of the pitcher leaves are waxy so the insect falls into the pool. On many pitcher plants, there are downward pointing hairs to make escape that much harder.
And while all of this is quite interesting, what really struck us was the flowers. These are some of the strangest flowers we have seen. Again, referring to the BSA for details, the sepals are a burgundy color, instead of the normal green, and stay attached. The petals are fragile and quickly fall off leaving the sepals to look like the petals. And this is only the beginning. The style grows into a shield-like structure. When the petals are attached, the droop down around the edges of this shield. The flower is normally tilted downwards so the shield becomes a collection plate for pollen. Nectar is also dripped onto the inside of the shield. When a fly lands and crawls into the shield, it pollinates the flower.
According to the sign at the gardens, these are all Sarracenia Leucophylla and are native to southeastern US wetlands.
The first photo shows the flower with the petals still attached. Notice how the hang limply. The second is a different one after the petals have fallen off.

Below is another view inside the shield where you can see the stamen.

And finally some nice group pictures. Notice how the flowers and the pitchers come up on separate stalks and slightly separated.

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