A variety of carnivorous plants one can expect to see in an Indiana bog or another kind of wetland is indeed a most interesting species. This is the northern pitcher plant. You won’t find pitcher plants in southern counties; only the norther one fourth of our state will have any locations where you can expect to find a plant that has what looks like a pitcher extending up from the main part of the plant.
There is, however, one exception to the northern range of the pitcher plant. This is in a wetland in Delaware County in east central Hoosierland. To even find a pitcher plant in the northern segment of Indiana you will have to hike into an area where you may also run into a swamp rattlesnake, poison sumac, lots of mud and a boggy section where you may suddenly break through the surface and then find yourself knee keep in really sticky muck.
I know from firsthand experience that all of these things are found in prime pitcher plant terrain. This is usually a location that is known as a bog or some other wet ground with acidic soil. I may be very strange, but I really like to explore in just such an area.
The dictionary says a bog is a “wet spongy, poorly drained and usually very acid ground, that is quite boggy.” There is a caveat to that statement that says “you may also sink into and be overwhelmed in such a site” and that is true.
I have fallen through the surface of a bog two or three times and wondered if I was going to get myself out and what in the world was I doing there anyway. It’s the thrill of finding plants like the pitcher plant, lovely orchids, other insect eating plants, and a host of other wonders of nature that makes me venture there. After all the best is never easy to obtain and most often does have its drawbacks. For most people the best way to view a bog is to go to one with a boardwalk and stay on it. You can do a lot of damage to such an area if you are not very careful. Bogs are not uncommon in Indiana, but what we have are some of the best around.
Among these are Coles, Pinhook, Tamarack, Elkhart, Thompson, Woodland and a dozen or so others in other locations. Now back to the pitcher plant.
There are 15 species in northern America and northern South America. Many of these are now threatened or endangered. The species native to the eastern and southeastern U.S. are the trumpet, crimson pitcher plant, hooded, and the norther pitcher plant, which is our only Hoosier variety. Our Indiana species is very pretty with leaves that are pitcher-shaped and collect water which the plant uses to trap insects that when they decay provides nutrients to the plant. The pitcher plant has a very unique way to attract and then trap a curious insect.
Its leaves are very colorful and have a sweet smell that attracts a fly or a beetle that is drawn downward deeper into its pitcher. Here is where the plant has its trap. Unlike the Venus flytrap this trap does not snap shut when something touches two of its sides. The pitcher plant’s pitcher has recurved downward pointed hairs that do not allow the insect to crawl back up the pitcher. Eventually the trapped creature tires and drops into the water that has collected in the bottom of the plant.
Enzymes produced by the plant now start their work of breaking down the body of the fly, bug or beetle into nitrogenous compounds that are then absorbed by the plant and help make up for the lack of nutrients in the hostile environment where the pitcher plant grows. Drawn into the trap it can’t get out of, then drown, and then turned into soup is not the way most of us want to die. Nature can be very cruel.