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ORRIN MORRIS: Insects nourish the carnivorous pitcher plant

Most branches of science are thought to be precise and consistent. This is especially believed about chemistry, physics and astronomy and least precise in the social sciences. In between these two groups are the many branches of biology, including botany.

One of the things I've learned over the last 20-plus years studying wildflowers is the difference of opinions between authors of the reference books, some of whom are botany professors. Several wildflowers are believed to be the result of cross pollination and their scientific names carry parenthetical notations specifying the original species.

Frankly, that precision is too much for these devotional columns. What is important, from my standpoint, is to convey the gift of beauty that God has bestowed upon us.

Jesus instructed his disciples to prepare for the Passover feast, but they were wanderers with no place to meet. "'What do we do and where?,' they asked. And he said unto them, 'Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?'" (Luke 22:10-11 KJB).Pitcher Plant

Sarracenia leucophyllaThe plants stand from 15 to 24 inches high. In normal seasons, the "pitcher" is about half full of water. The "hood" controls the water intake during heavy rains preventing the tube from filling up and causing the plant to break over.The pitcher plants are carnivorous in that they need nourishment from insects. Inside the tube are bristles that point downward. When insects are lured in by the sweet-smelling aroma, the bristles prevent their escape.Eventually they fall into the liquid wherein they are digested. The plant extracts nitrogen from the decaying insects to supplement the nitrogen absent in the acidic soil of their normal habitat.

The bloom occurs on a single separate stalk as pictured. It has several uniquely shaped parts. First, the petals drape downward. Second, under the petals is a pistil shaped like a tiny upside-down umbrella. Third, under this double canopy are the pollen-bearing stamens. Blooming occurs from May to July.

The pitcher plant requires wet, acidic soils. There are 26 species of pitcher plants in North America and 13 of them have been located in Georgia. Generally, the pitcher plant is thought to be a tropical plant. However, while some species are found in Georgia's marshes, others are found in north Georgia mountains.

From a national perspective, there are pitcher plant species as far north as Alaska. The Vaughn Botanical Garden in Olde Town Conyers has another species of the pitcher plant (S. flava), commonly called the yellow pitcher plant.

The photos from which this drawing was made were taken at the botanical garden adjacent to Perimeter College, Panthersville Campus. This is a good place to frequently visit for advice and special purchases.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.