If I were to ask you to imagine a carnivore, what would it look like? Perhaps you thought of sharp claws, bloodstained teeth, and dripping drool. However, it is very unlikely that you saw soft, purple petal-like leaves poking out of the ground. Nonetheless, The Purple Pitcher Plant is one of 18 carnivorous plant species in Canada and the only pitcher plant in the country.  

Purple Pitcher plant (Photo by Mark Alexander MacDonald) 

The Purple Pitcher Plant, growing up to 30 cm long, can be found in bogs and fens across Canada. They are native to North America and have adapted to grow in low-nutrient, thin soil environments where many other plants are unable to prosper. Since they cannot source all their nutritional needs from the soil, they have evolved to supplement their diet with insects (and sometimes even small vertebrae like frogs and salamanders!).  

Photo: Patrick Moldowan. (Parks Blog, 2019.) 

To thrive, pitchers must entice and trap insects that crawl or fly inside. They attract the insects by luring them in with their sweet-smelling nectar and vibrant, variegated purple patterning. Their leaves have evolved into a tubular shape, so it allows rainwater to be captured and collected in their hollow ‘pitchers’, and their wide, slippery, nectar-coated rims give bugs an inviting place to land. Insects that venture inside the pitcher become trapped inside by stiff, downward-pointing hairs, making it nearly impossible to escape. Once they fall into the pitcher water, digestive enzymes are immediately released by the plant to break down and extract nutrients from their prey.  

Purple Pitcher plant (Photo by Mark Alexander MacDonald) 

According to iNaturalist, there have been 7 sightings of these fascinating plants in the Petitcodiac Watershed area! Next time you are wandering in a wetland, bog, or swamp, keep your eyes peeled for these beautiful and rare plants!  

To win our giveaway, post a picture of a Purple Pitcher Plant, tag us, and use #25watershedmoments  

Parks Blog. (2019). Carnivorous Pitcher Plants found at Algonquin Provincial Park. https://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/carnivorous-pitcher-plants-salamanders-algonquin/ 

Nature Conservancy Canada. (2023). Pitcher plant. https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/plants/pitcher-plant.html  

iNaturalist. (n.d.). https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=7587&subview=map&taxon_id=52651