Thursday, May 27, 2010

27 May 1931: "Two meat-eating plants are growing in Mrs. G. W. Brown's front yard..."

On this day in 1931, the Athens-Banner Herald reported on two pitcher plants growing at 347 Hancock Avenue, home of Mrs. G. W. Brown.

The article quotes University of Georgia botany professor Dr. J. M. Reade as saying "there are not many in this section of the state," then describes how the pitcher plants catch and digest their prey. The carnivorous pitcher plant lures insects into the top of the plant with a sweet nectar. Rather than close down on its prey as the Venus Flytrap does, the pitcher is a passive killer, allowing the insect to simply slip or slide down into the basin of it's pitcher-shaped body where a liquid filled with digestive enzymes consumes the prey.

Though the reporter described the plants as "Nepenthaceae, or the American pitcher plant," the pitcher plants native to Georgia and other parts of North America are actually part of the Sarraceniaceae family; the Nepenthaceae family are indigenous to "tropical habitats in Australia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the Seychelles, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka." The natural habitat for Sarracenia pitchers is bogland, which is why they are more common in central and southern Georgia.

In 1973, Georgia passed the Wildflower Preservation Act, which protects rare species of plants on state-owned and unowned land. Rare plants on privately-owned property are protected only so far as the property owner makes their preservation a priority. Development and wetland drainage have destroyed 97.5% of pitcher plant habitat in the southeast.

Several species of pitcher are considered endangered or threatened in Georgia, such as:
  • White-top pitcher plants are considered Endangered by the state of Georgia, and are primarily confined to Sumter County.
  • Green pitcher plants are considered Endangered by both the state of Georgia and under the United States Endangered Species Act, and are only found in a single site in Towns County.
  • Sweet pitcher plants are considered Threatened by the state of Georgia, and while there have been up to 40 natural sites found, only two of these are protected.
  • Purple pitcher plants are found both on the coast and in mountain bogs. There is only one mountain site left, and the remaining four coastal preservation sites are protected by a management agreement the state has with Georgia Power.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources lists over 150 protected plants in the state, ranging in status from Endangered, for plants facing "extinction throughout all or part of its range," to Unusual, for those plants that are rare and are "subject to commercial exploitation."

Learn More:


  1. I don't suppose that you can buy a plant or seeds!

  2. On this Carnivorous Plant FAQ page, you can find out how to get hold of your own plants, though even there it is recommended you join a carnivorous plant society and buy through them to ensure you aren't purchasing poached plants.