Carnivorous Plants Website
Carnivorous Plants in the Wilderness
by Makoto Honda





Pitcher Plants
Cobra Plant
Venus' Flytrap



Pitcher Plants                 Return to Text 

Pollinator/Prey Dilemma -- Soap Box 1

In some pitcher plants, however, the temporal separation is not so obvious. In fact, a normal form of S. minor, for one, generally produces new leaves in tandem with its flowers. In early May in Georgia, yellow flowers are seen among many active pitcher leaves of the new season. This species is an exception also among pitcher plants regarding the flowering in one more aspect: The scape is shorter than the average height of the pitcher leaves. The pitcher opening of this species, incidentally, has a well-developed, domed hood covering the mouth. Unlike the majority of pitcher plant species, this makes the pitcher opening facing downward -- toward the blooming flowers down below. The hood portion of this species has a red inner lining which, when viewed looking up from down under, produces a brilliant red hue against the bright sky. When the pollinator, after servicing the flower, comes out of the pendulous flower in preparation for flight, and looks up, what it sees are seductive, bright red openings scattered just above against the blue sky. Could it be that the grand scheme of things for this species is to have-a-cake-and-eat-it-too?

Another species which seems to violate the temporal separation is S. oreophila, a species confined to several small locals in the northern Alabama. This species often produces pitcher leaves of the new season prior to the blossom that typically occurs in early May in their natural habitats.

Although majority of other species delay their pitcher production until the fertilization of the flower is presumably complete, visitors traveling through the savanna of the southeastern US in the early May often find new leaves of the season sprouting out in mass among still attractive flowers, often with all colorful petals still intact. (This is true in species like S. leucophyla.)

The spatial separation, in the case of regular erect leaf species, may offer little protection for pollinators after all, since the flowers are positioned generally only a slightly higher, just above the pitcher leaf openings, if active leaves are available at the time of flower. For some curious reason, as in the case of S. minor above, the flower is always positioned in the direction of pitcher openings! The flower, already fertilized or not, may offer convenient resting place before venturing into the pitcher openings just below, or above.