The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: I saw pitchers in a flower arrangement. Is this bad?

Sarracenia hybrids
A: For a while, it was increasingly common to see Sarracenia pitchers in cut flower shops, where The florists used the pitchers in flower arrangements. It is a great plant for them because the pitchers (usually Sarracenia leucophylla) are beautifully colored and durable. Unfortunately, nearly all the pitchers used in this trade are not being grown for this purpose like a crop. Rather, the pitchers are harvested from the wild. I have received very depressing reports about how groups of workers walk through pitcher plant habitats and cut all the pitchers off the plants. Since Sarracenia produce only a few pitchers at the beginning of the year, this form of harvesting will probably result in the death of the plants within a few seasons.

A few defenders of the practice have emailed me with claims that the plants are being harvested sustainably, that only one pitcher per plant is taken per season. However, they refused to be identified here by name (even just first name/last initial as I do for most FAQ contributions from readers). Meanwhile, photographic evidence I have seen of before/after effects of pitcher harvesting was horrifying. All the pitchers were taken.

Sarracenia leucophylla
Sarracenia leucophylla
Whenever I see pitcher plants in florist shops, I stop in and tell them a little about the pitchers. They usually call the plants "cobra lilies" (which of course they are not---that common name is used for Darlingtonia californica---but I usually just try not to quiver too much, and just pass on this point). I tell them the plants are endangered, and that the plants are probably being harvested illegally.

(Note that while they are in truth endangered, most species of pitcher plants are not on the lists of the U.S.A. Endangered Species Act. Apparently being reduced to only a few percent of their original numbers, with nearly all their habitat destroyed, is not enough to merit protection by our myopic society.)

I also mention that I am sorry they are using these plants, and tell them that I intend to tell my friends about their store's practices. These are not empty threats. I follow through on my word. I am usually very polite, but there are some things which I value and will speak out for. It is imperative that the cut flower trade realizes they are contributing to the extinction of these plants.

I haven't been seeing as many Sarracenia pitchers in florist's windows as I used to. Maybe the plants are out of vogue? I can only hope.

Page citations: Simpson, R.B. 1994; US Fish & Wildlife Service 1973; personal observation.

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018