Photos of Sarracenia purpurea, Pitcher Plant.

Sarracenia purpurea, Pitcher Plant. The tubular leaves of Pitcher Plant often hold rain water and has evolved to capture and digest insects. It is named for Michel Sarrazin, 1659-1734, the French King’s physician in Quebec. All 11 species from North America may be free of anthocyanins making them green, rather than the normal reddish-purple color. Sarracenia purpurea, the only species found north of Virginia, is usually found in acidic bog habitats. Medicinally, the Cree of Northern Quebec traditionally used the plant for diabetes symptoms. A Canadian research team isolated 11 compounds from the plant, three of which were shown to potentiate glucose uptake, while decreasing liver glucose. The root famously emerged as a smallpox treatment in 1861. The plant was thought to be a preventive for smallpox. It was used in an effort to modify the disease and shorten its duration, though it was believed to be ineffective by those who tried it. European physicians researched the plant as a possible smallpox cure in the 19th century, but without success. This insectivorous bog plant is of conservation concern.

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