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Pitcher Plant Hell

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I looked at my fine plant with new eyes. Not only was it beautiful, it was deadly!


As you might imagine, I had a problem leaving live moths in the pitchers, scrabbling helplessly against the leaf's slickly haired sides. 

Judging that the plants had more than enough to eat, I saved them.


oh thank you giant primate

One I freed was a lovely Virginia Ctenucha, one of the wasp-mimic moths.


Just couldn't let it sink down into the goo.


Also had two gorgeous Ailanthus Webworm moths, Atteva punctella, one of the larger microlepidopterans, with a beautiful veined orange-and-white rolled wing. They flew away the second they were out in the air. Couldn't get a photo.



Earwigs, wasps, bees, flies, honeybees, syrphid flies, hoverflies--anything that comes to flowers will come to a pitcher plant, apparently, only it's the Hotel California for pollinators.



Even paper wasps are not immune to its sweet, honey-scented charms. It has a competitive advantage in that it's quite hardy and in full, sweet-scented bloom when practically everything else has croaked from the first frosts.


 Stick to flowers, guys. These plants are bad news.


Pollinators swarm my Suffolk Pink chrysanthemum just a few feet away. It's the hardiest and latest-blooming of all. It doesn't even get going until Halloween in southern Ohio, and it's a blessing blooming that late. (It's done now; these photos have aged a bit since I took them.) 

"Suffolk," in a few different colors, was probably the first mum ever brought to the New World. The foundation stock for my plants (yes, it spreads modestly and delightfully) came from peerless pastel painter and partner in peripatetic hilarity Cindy House, from her Vermont/New Hampshire gardens. (You may remember her spotting the "body bags" outside a Massachusetts restaurant).

A nice, super hardy, willing plant. Not like those nasty carnivorous ones.

I have the pitcher plants in the greenhouse, on the cold floor next to an outside vent, for the winter. Hoping I'm doing right by them. They're just too precious to me now to let them freeze into the pond ice again. Thanks again, Cheryl! All it took was five years and some sphagnum...

7 comments:

Whoa! Deja Vu all over again. :)

I just finished reading "Micro" by the late M. Crichton ...(finished posthumously by Richard Preston) ... and I have decided it is VERY good to be big.

There were no pitcher plants in the story, but they would have been a great addition.

A LOT more predators down there than there are up here! Spiders alone...

Thanks for the introduction to the "Pitcher Plant". I have never heard of this one before. Very interesting plant. Your posting makes me want to get a few, but I'm not sure how well they would do in the Southern states. Also, thanks for the great pics to follow along with the post. I totally enjoyed reading this.
Bella

How cool that you've got a pitcher plant in your garden! I've regularly thought about getting a carnivorous plant because I think they're so neat, but don't know that I'd have the means to care for it properly. This one really is a beauty.

I'm not sure of the ID of the first moth (possibly Bicolored Sallow, Sunira bicolorago), but your second moth isn't a Virginia Ctenucha, but rather the smaller lookalike Yellow-collared Scape Moth, Cisseps fulvicollis. Besides the size, the YCSM lacks the shiny blue thorax of the VC, and also has thin yellow edging to the outer edge of the wings that the VC doesn't have (VC meanwhile usually has thin white edging to the bottom edge of the wings). YCSMs share the VC's diurnal, flower-visiting habits; they're probably just as commmon, but regularly mis-ID'd as VCs.

Saving otherwise doomed insects aside (which is the sort of thing I have been known to do), I'm delighted to know the name of that Suffolk chrysanthemum! I have one I got from my late mother's garden and have never known what it was. It just looked some kind of daisy flower with chrysanthemum leaves to me! It has moved itself from its original spot, which became too shady for it, to a nice place it chose on the edge of a sort of terrace. I love it. Last thing blooming every year.

I am a florist and have seen the dried pitcher plant blooms. Frankly, I think they are much prettier alive than dried and all brown. Nature's critter control! No where on my wooded hill would these pretty things grow as its way to dry.

Anything that would attack an Ailanthus -- a.k.a. Hell Tree -- is all right by me.

Posted by Dirk Coburn January 2, 2012 at 8:48 AM
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