Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant (Sarrancenia jonesii)
By Carson Feather Whitmore
The term “carnivore” doesn’t usually conjure up an image of an elegant plant. But the Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant is just that – a carnivore -dependent on unsuspecting insects as a vital food source. Mountain Sweet has a long hollow “pitcher”, leaves that are elongated and fused together. Full of sweet-smelling liquid, insects are drawn into the pitcher and to their demise from the enzymes that digest their bodies. Nutrients are then taken up into the plant’s tissues.
You can find these perennial plants in mountain bogs and along streams in about 10 remaining populations distributed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North and South Carolina. Their red (and occasionally yellow) blooms appear in the spring to early summer. It is believed that pitcher plants, including Mountain Sweet, evolved from nutrient-depleted environments, the carnivorous trait a way to supplement poor soil quality.
Listed as endangered, Mountain Sweet is threatened in a big way by habitat loss cased by development (only about 2 populations are on public lands). Stream diversion, making way for development causes fragile bogs to dry up, also threatening the plants. Few populations remain, due to stream diversion and wetland loss from development, but Wild South works with partners across the region, including Mast General Store and Eagles Nest Outfitters to protect our public lands and the fragile habitats of amazing species like this. Always tread lightly and be aware of unique or threatened species when you go out hiking. Thanks to our great partners, we will continue to provide a voice and act on the ground to conserve wild places in the South. (*Also, check out Mast General Store’s brand new, awesome web page for the right gear to get you and your family outside!)
photos: ncwildflower.org, projectnoah.org