Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea

2011 (approx.)

Detailed Description

Pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea leaves filled with water in a bog in northern Florida.

The North American pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, is a unique system for characterizing microbial diversity and carbon cycling but it has been poorly studied from a microbiology perspective. The leaves of S. purpurea trap rainwater, creating a microscopic aquatic habitat with the dynamics of larger aquatic food webs and making it an ideal system for understanding dynamics occurring in an entire food web. Insects, especially ants, fall into the water trapped in the leaf; bacteria and yeast colonize the system, decompose the insects, and liberate nutrients for the plant. A variety of protozoans and a rotifer species also colonize this community and consume the bacteria. The leaves of S. purpurea contain the same species of larvae, protozoans and rotifer species throughout the plant's native geographic range but little is known about the identity of the bacteria in this system. In collaboration with Dr. Sarah M. Gray, USGS's Denise Akob is using a combination of 16S rRNA sequence analysis and cultivation techniques to determine if the bacteria forming the bottom trophic level of this community are the same throughout leaves at a local scale (within a bog) and between sites in Florida and New York (the Southern and Northern points of S. purpurea's geographic range). In the future Dr. Akob will identify the functional role of microbial populations to determine what enzymes these organisms utilize for decomposition. This work may also have implications for bioenergy as novel enzymes for cellulose degradation could exist within this system.


Public Domain.