Like other species of Sarracenia, S. purpurea obtains most of its nutrients through prey capture. However, prey acquisition is said to be inefficient, with less than 1% of the visiting prey captured within the pitcher. Even so, anecdotal evidence by growers often shows that pitchers quickly fill up with prey during the warm summer months. Prey fall into the pitcher and drown in the rainwater that collects in the base of each leaf.
Oldest known illustration of Sarracenia purpurea, from Clusius's Rariorum plantarum historia, cf. 18, 1601
S. purpurea also traps juvenile spotted salamanders with enough regularity that nearly 20% of surveyed plants were found to contain one or more salamanders in a 2019 study. The salamanders were observed to die within three to nineteen days, and may be killed as the small pools of water in the plant are heated by the sun. A single salamander could provide hundreds to thousands of times the nutrients of invertebrate prey, but it is not known how efficiently S. purpurea is able to digest them.
Species of Sarracenia grow in nutrient-poor, acid bogs. Its range includes the Eastern seaboard, the Great Lakes region, all of Canada (except Nunavut and Yukon), Washington state, and Alaska. That makes it the most common and broadly distributed pitcher plant, as well as the only member of the genus that inhabits cold temperateclimates. How the Sarracenia traveled so far is still a mystery. From what is known so far the Sarracenia has a median seed dispersal distance of 5cm, which is not far enough to explain the plant’s widespread occurrence throughout North America. It is endangered or vulnerable over much of the southern part of its range. The species is the floral emblem of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most varieties along the Gulf Coast of the United States that were once identified as Sarracenia purpurea have since been reclassified as Sarracenia rosea.
The species is further divided into two subspecies, S. purpurea subsp. purpurea and S. purpurea subsp. venosa. The former is found from New Jersey north, while the latter is found from New Jersey south and tolerates warmer temperatures.
In 1999, Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii was described as a species of its own: Sarracenia rosea. This re-ranking has been debated among carnivorous plant enthusiasts since then, but further morphological evidence has supported the split. The following species and infraspecific taxa are usually recognized:
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea f. heterophylla
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea f. ruplicola (invalid)
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii [=S. rosea]
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii f. luteola
Sarracenia purpurea pitchers have been investigated as a biocontrol for the Asian Hornet Vespa velutina in Europe, as they act as natural bottle traps in which hornets have been observed to be trapped in. The hybrids used in the study, S. juthatipsoper and S. evendine, were deemed too unselective, but the researchers proposed trying other pitcher plant species which may be more effective.
^Wakefield AE; Gotelli NJ; Wittman SE; Ellison AM (2005). "Prey addition alters nutrient stoichiometry of the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea". Ecology (abstract). 86 (7): 1737–1743. doi:10.1890/04-1673.
^Newell SJ; Nastase AJ (1998). "Efficiency of nutrient capture by Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae), the Northern Pitcher Plant". American Journal of Botany. 85 (1): 88–91. doi:10.2307/2446558. JSTOR 2446558. S2CID 16021826.
^C. Michael Hogan. 2011. Commensalism. Topic Ed. M.Mcginley. Ed-in-chief C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
^Ceurstemont, Sandrine (2019), Carnivorous plants eat far more salamanders than scientists thought, National Geographic, retrieved 31 January 2021
^Heard SB (1994). "Pitcher plant midges and mosquitoes: a processing chain commensalism". Ecology (abstract). 75 (6): 1647–1660. doi:10.2307/1939625. JSTOR 1939625.
^Mouquet N.; Daufresne T.; Gray S. M.; Miller T. E. (2008). "Modelling the relationship between a pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and its phytotelma community: mutualism or parasitism?". Functional Ecology. 22 (4): 728–737. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01421.x.
^Peterson C. N.; Day S.; Wolfe B. E.; Ellison A. M.; Kolter R.; Pringle A. (2008). "A keystone predator controls bacterial diversity in the pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) microecosystem". Environmental Microbiology. 10 (9): 2257–2266. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01648.x. PMID18479443.
^Rice, Barry. (2007). About Sarracenia purpurea, the purple pitcher plant. The Carnivorous Plant FAQ. Accessed online: 21 June 2008.
^Gallie D. R.; Chang S.-C. (1997). "Signal transduction in the carnivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea. Regulation of secretory hydrolase expression during development and in response to resources". Plant Physiology. 115 (4): 1461–1471. doi:10.1104/pp.115.4.1461. PMC158611. PMID9414556.
^CHASE, MARK W., et al. “Murderous Plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and Modern Insights into Vegetable Carnivory.” Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society
^Jepson Manual eFlora (TJM2) treatment of Sarracenia purpurea − naturalized distribution in California
^"Sarracenia purpurea L." Kewscience. Plants of the World online. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
^Agyepong-Parsons, James (January 2021). "Suck Stick Drip". BBC Wildlife. pp. 32–5.
^Foss, P.J. & O'Connell, C.A. (1985). "Notes on the ecology of Sarracenia purpurea L. on Irish peatlands". The Irish Naturalists' Journal. 21 (10): 440–443. JSTOR 25538921.
^Ellison A. M.; Buckley H. L.; Miller T. E.; Gotelli N. J. (2004). "Morphological variation in Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae): geographic, environmental, and taxonomic correlates" (PDF). American Journal of Botany. 91 (11): 1930–1935. doi:10.3732/ajb.91.11.1930. PMID21652339.
^Hanrahan B.; Miller J. (1998). "History of Discovery: Yellow Flowered Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp. venosa (Raf.) Wherry var. burkii". Carnivorous Plant Newsletter. 27 (1): 14–17.
^"Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
^Native American Ethnobotany DB: Sarracenia purpurea L. Documented uses.
^Charles Frederick Millspaugh (1892). American Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated and Descriptive Guide to Plants Indigenous to and Naturalized in the United States which are Used in Medicine (illustrated ed.). Courier Corporation. p. 76. ISBN 9780486230344.
^Arndt, William; Mitnik, Chandra; Denzler, Karen L.; White, Stacy; Waters, Robert; Jacobs, Bertram L.; Rochon, Yvan; Olson, Victoria A.; Damon, Inger K.; Langland, Jeffrey O. (2012-03-09). "In Vitro Characterization of a Nineteenth-Century Therapy for Smallpox". PLOS ONE. 7 (3): e32610. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...732610A. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032610. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC3302891. PMID22427855.
^Corentin Dupont. "Variation in colour signals among Sarracenia pitcher plants and the potential role of areoles in the attraction of flying Hymenoptera". biorxiv.org. AMAP, University, Montpellier. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
^"Wycke M-A, Perrocheau R, Darrouzet E (2018) Sarracenia carnivorous plants cannot serve as efficient biological control of the invasive hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax in Europe. Rethinking Ecology 3: 41-50. DOI 10.3897/rethinkingecology.3.28516". Rethinking Ecology. 3: 41–50. 11 December 2018. doi:10.3897/rethinkingecology.3.28516.
^"Can carnivorous plants control an invasive hornet?". 20 November 2018.
Sarracenia purpurea at Barry Rice's carnivorous plant FAQ.
Botanical Society of America, Sarracenia - the Pitcher Plants
UC Photos gallery — Sarracenia purpurea
CHASE, MARK W., et al. “Murderous Plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and Modern Insights into Vegetable Carnivory.” Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 161, no. 4, 2009, pp. 329–356.
Ellison, A. M., and J. N. Parker. “Seed Dispersal and Seedling Establishment of Sarracenia Purpurea (Sarraceniaceae).” American Journal of Botany, vol. 89, no. 6, 2002, pp. 1024–1026