Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
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Any of various insectivorous plants of the families Sarraceniaceae and Nepenthaceae. In pitcher plants, the leaves form deep cups or pitchers in which water collects. Visiting insects, falling into this water, are drowned and digested by the action of enzymes secreted by cells located in the walls of the pitcherlike structures of these plants. Members of the Sarraceniaceae family are divided into three genera: Sarracenia (Fig. 1), which is found in eastern North America; Darlingtonia, which grows in northern California and southern Oregon; and Heliamphora, which is endemic on high mountains in the northern part of South America. The Nepenthaceae family has only one genus, Nepenthes, which occurs in the Old World tropics from China to Australia; in particular, Nepenthes species exhibit tremendous diversity in Borneo. Often, these plants climb by tendrils (prolongations of the midrib of the leaf). The end of a tendril may develop into a pitcher (Fig. 2), which captures and digests insects. See also: Caryophyllales; Ericales; Food web; Insectivorous plants; Nepenthales; Secretory structures (plant)
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