The Jury is Still Out! Well… Sort of!

In my last post I mentioned that Sarracenia flowers turn up as the petals fall.  As William Shatner might say… “is that weird? or What?”

According to the literature, there was speculation that the flowers tilted upward to allow the pollen to fall down onto a stigma to self pollinate the flower just in case it didn’t get cross pollinated.  Don Schnell states that is very unlikely.  However, after taking a look at a couple of Sarracenia flava flowers… I think it’s possible, but clearly, not always. It really depends on the individual flower.

Take a look at the photo below.  I’ve added red dots to show where the stigmas located.


The flower on the left shows that one of the stigmas is positioned at the bottom of the umbrella when the umbrella faces forward. In this case, I think it might be possible for the pollen to fall on the stigma.  The flower on the right shows a different configuration. In this case, the stigmas are to the left and right of vertical. The pollen would like fall down between them.

However… after thinking about this I came to the realization that all this speculation may be for not!  At this point, its likely that pollen is not viable anyway!


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5 Responses to The Jury is Still Out! Well… Sort of!

  1. Mike Wang says:

    When a flower just opens, the stem and all flower parts are very tender. As they age, they become more fibrous and tough. Think of an asparagus-it’s extremely tender when you harvest the spears, but as the plant develops branches and leaves, it becomes extremely fibrous.
    With this understanding, Perhaps this is why the flowers just dangle as they do when they just opened-the stem is still “tender” and can hold only so much weight before bending over. After the flower is pollinated, the entire flower stalk and developing ovary become more fibrous as the plant allocates more nutrients to the developing seeds. Since the stalk becomes literally thicker and more fibrous, perhaps it straightens out.

    Not sure if there’s a significant function for this, but perhaps there’s less of a chance for mechanical damage to the ripening ovary if the fruit “heads” are pointing upwards instead of hanging like they do when the flowers open.

  2. Melody says:

    Interesting, the flowers on my S. purpurea do this as well. If self pollination probably isn’t likely, are there any other theories as to why the flowers tilt that way?

    • Carl Mazur says:

      As far as other theories go… Mike’s explanation of the flowers being “tender” when the flower opens makes sense. and as the stem ages, it becomes more fibrous and rigid. That’s the best I’ve heard so far

  3. Mark says:

    You should try bending one of those tender f lower heads up.
    They make the most delightful snapping sounds 🙂
    I only tried the following one time with one flava and one purp.
    After pollinating and waiting for the petals to drop I tied , carefully, the flower head so it remained pointing down. After a couple of adjustments and a couple days of rain and then a couple days of warm weather I noticed that a flurry of fuzzy gray mold had taken over the old pollen. In three more days the flower heads were completely “squishy” . I could only surmise that the flowers simply held just enough water long enough for mold to get a hold. But like I said, I only did it one time, so it could have been a fluke . There was no mold on any other pitcher plant flower that had turned up.

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