The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: Where do pitcher plants (Darlingtonia and Sarracenia) live?

A: Darlingtonia populations are restricted to the far west coast of the USA, specifically the two states of California and Oregon. The vast majority of the populations are found along the Pacific Ocean coast, from Oregon (Tillamook County) down into Del Norte County, California. While coastal, don't expect to smell salt air at a Darlingtonia site---the plants can be 60 km or further from the ocean.

In addition to the populations along the coast, there are a few inland California populations. Fine Darlingtonia populations occur in the Trinity Alps, near the town of Mt. Shasta, and even as far inland as the Sierra Nevada, between Lake Almanor and Lake Tahoe. Reports of plants near Donner Lake, in the Sierra Nevada, have never been verified even though this area is extremely accessible and has been heavily studied.

Non-native populations of this plant occur elsewhere, of course, thanks to misguided horticultural experiments. Many plants have been inserted into the Mendocino pygmy forest. They have also turned up in British Columbia!

One feature common to the soils of nearly all Darlingtonia sites is the presence of the mineral serpentine. This is not an absolute requirement---at least one Darlingtonia site has no serpentine in it, but it is usually present. You can see its range in the large map of the continental USA, indicated with blue on the west coast. Click it for a closer view!

Sarracenia species are mostly found along the southeastern edge of the USA, as you can see from the first map on this page. The exception to this is Sarracenia purpurea, which ranges widely from the Atlantic coastal plain of the USA, up along the east coast, into Maine and through Canada. Although I don't show it, this species even gets to British Columbia. However, my understanding is that over this vast range, there are very few occurrences of the plant. For more details on each species, refer to their individual FAQ profiles, immediately following the Sarracenia species list.

On the maps on this page, I have indicated the presence of more than one species in overlapping ranges using a color key, which is most easily seen in the close-up map. The numbers next to the color code indicate how many species are denoted by each color. You can clearly see that the area of greatest species diversity is near Mobile, Alabama, where the red on my map indicates that as many as six species are in the area.

Silly humans have introduced Sarracenia to many places out of their ranges. I do not indicate these introductions.

I noticed with some interest that in his 2002 book, Don Schnell resorted to referring to ranges of plants as "historical" ranges. This is very reasonable, since these marvelous pitcher plants have been eliminated from most of the areas they once occurred in.

Finally, I would welcome authoritative corrections to my maps. For example, I'm not really sure that Sarracenia purpurea ever occurred in Iowa, as I indicate.

Page citations: Juniper, B.E., et al. 1989; Rice, B.A. 2006a; Schnell, D.E. 1976, 2002a; Teichreb, C. 2006; personal observation.

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Revised: January 2010
©Barry Rice, 2005