Darlingtonia californica, Del Norte County, California.
The genus Darlingtonia contains only one species, Darlingtonia californica. It is a pitfall pitcher plant related to Sarracenia and Heliamphora. It is remarkable because of the pair of appendages that are either described as fangs or a moustache, depending upon the details of the brain of the one making the description.
Like all pitfall traps, Darlingtonia has no moving parts. However, it is still marvelously effective. It attracts prey by its colorful leaves that emit a honeylike scent. Prey land on the pitcher top or the fangs to feed on nectar. Nectar is exuded in glistening abundance on the fangs, and as the insects forage they eventually crawl upwards towards the pitcher mouth. Since the pitcher top is set with countless glassy windows, light illuminates its interior and makes it so very appealing. Once insects enter the pitcher, they are in serious trouble because the escape route is hard to find. Meanwhile, the pitcher tube downwards is very easy to find, indeed! (As Sir David Attenborough would say.) The pitcher tube is slick and adorned with downwards-pointing hairs. The prey plummet downwards and to its doom. The pitcher base is filled with fluid. No digestive enzymes have been detected in this plant; it apparently relies upon bacteria and commensals to do its digestion for it.
The commensals in Darlingtonia deserve special comment because they are so horrifying. The most obvious are the larval form of a flying midge (Metriocnemus edwardsi). These are small (about 1 cm long) white wormlike creatures. Cut open a Darlingtonia pitcher and you will see swarms of them gobbling up the prey that are submerged in the pitcher fluid. It is truly horrible to behold.
Read more about Darlingtonia at the ICPS sarracenia.com FAQ
-- Barry Rice
Darlingtonia information on the ICPS carnivorousplants.org web site:
Registered Cultivar Names
Seed Bank: Growing Darlingtonia californica
How To: Darlingtonia Vegetative Propagation
Darlingtonia information in the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter:
Brownfield, Jennifer (1985) Rearing Cobras. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 14(3):78-80 (
Sheridan, Phil and Bill Scholl (1993) Notes on some Darlingtonia californica Torr. bogs. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 22(3):70-75 (
Meyers-Rice, Barry (2001) Color patterns in Darlingtonia. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 30(4):100-103 (
Search the CPN Index and Archive for over 75 articles about Darlingtonia.