Wetlands & Pitcher Plants

Wetlands and Pitcher Plants

Wetlands are wet habitats that have moist, saturated soils and water tolerant plants. There are many types of wetlands throughout the world including swamps, bogs, marshes and peat lands. In fact, 13% of Georgia’s land area is considered a wetland. Wetlands often exist in holes in the landscape or along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes or oceans.

This important habitat serves a vital role in the overall health of our planet. Wetlands help regulate water levels, improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, reduce flood and storm damage and provide important habitats for fish and wildlife.

The Native Bog Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a representation of various southeastern wetland habitats. This garden features carnivorous or meat eating plants, native orchids and grasses and various types of native wetland plants. Depending on the time of year, you may see blooming pitcher plants, Venus flytraps or bright orange orchids. Many of the plants featured in the Native Bog Garden are part of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Conservation Program that monitors, restores and conserves the unique and species-rich bog communities found throughout the Coastal Plain and southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States.

Many meat eating or carnivorous plants live in wetland habitats. The wetland soil where they grow often lacks nutrients because the water leeches out many of available nutrients. As a result, carnivorous plants gain the extra nutrients they need to grow from insects. Many carnivorous plants, such as Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, butterworts, sundews, and bladderworts are found in bogs in the southeast. Below is a description of a famous carnivorous plant that lives in Georgia called a Pitcher Plant or in the scientific world - Sarracenia.

Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia)

Pitcher plants are aptly named because their leaves are shaped like tall, cone-shaped pitchers that hold fluid. Insects, like bees, butterflies and ants are attracted to the top of the trap because of its bright red color and sweet smell. As an insect begins to investigate the tempting treat, it loses its footing because of the slippery sides or because of downward pointing hairs lining the inside of the plant. The insect falls down into the pitcher that is filled with digestive fluids like the saliva in your mouth. The soft parts of the insect are digested first leaving behind the skeleton.

Dissecting a pitcher plant reveals what is inside. As the leaf is opened, insect remains show what the plant has "eaten." After the plant has digested the soft tissue parts of the insect or bug, the harder parts, like the wings and exoskeleton, remain. Scroll through the pictures to the left. In them, you will see the inside of a pitcher plant. Look for bits and pieces of wings, legs, hard outer coverings and antennae.

Some pitcher plants are home small caterpillars that use the inside of the pitcher plant to pupate and metamorphose into an adult moth. The moth pupae in this pitcher plant began to move once it was removed from its protective home.

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