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The variety of the pitcher plant (Sarracenia variolaris) found in North America is carnivorous, being a feeder on various animal substances.
Mrs. Mary Treat, an American naturalist, made, a few years ago, several experiments upon the plants of this species to be found in Florida; and to the labors of this lady the writer has been indebted, in some measure, in the preparation of this paper.
The Sarracenia derives its name of “pitcher plant” from the fact of its possessing the following curious characteristics: The median nerve is prolonged beyond the leaves in the manner of a tendril, and terminates in a species of cup or urn. This cup is ordinarily three or four inches in depth, and one to one and a half inches in width. The orifice of the cup is covered with a lid, which opens and shuts at certain periods. At sunrise the cup is found filled with sweet, limpid water, at which time the lid is down. In the course of the day the lid opens, when nearly half the water is evaporated; but during the night this loss is made up, and the next morning the cup is again quite full, and the lid is shut.
About the middle of March the plants put forth their leaves, which are from six to twelve inches long, hollow, and shaped something like a trumpet, while the aperture of the apex is formed almost precisely in the same manner as those of the plants previously described. A broad wing extends along one side of the leaf, from the base to the opening at the top; this wing is bound or edged with a purple cord, which extends likewise around the cup. This cord secretes a sweet fluid, and not only flying insects, but those also that crawl upon the ground, are attracted by it to the plants. Ants, especially, are very fond of this fluid, so that a line of aphides, extending from the base to the summit of a leaf, may frequently be observed slowly advancing toward the orifice of the cup, down which they disappear, never to return. Flying insects of every kind are equally drawn to the plant; and directly they taste the fluid, they act very curiously. After feeding upon the secretions for two or three minutes they become quite stupid, unsteady on their feet, and while trying to pass their legs over their wings to clear them, they fall down.