History of Discovery:
Yellow Flowered Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp. venosa
(Raf.) Wherry var. burkii
Bob Hanrahan and
reports --- new taxa: Sarracenia purpurea --- observations: pigmentation.
form: Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp. venosa (Raf.)
Wherry var. burkii Schnell f. luteola Hanrahan & Miller
Way back in
August of 1985 I managed to complete the last original objective for my
carnivorous plant nursery, World Insectivorous Plants. The acquisition
and preservation of a natural carnivorous plant bog was conceived to be
its crowning achievement. I purchased and saved from destruction an interesting
forty acre gulf coast savanna bog in Elsanor, Baldwin County, Alabama.
Baldwin County in lower Alabama has the distinction of being the fastest
growing county in Alabama. Unfortunately, this new distinction may be
translated quickly into eventual extinction for most carnivorous plant
sites. Massive pitcher plant stands that were once common on commercial
and private properties are being transformed into other uses on a regular
basis. Carnivorous plant buffs who once remembered Baldwin County as "leuco
country" would be devastated to see the recent changes. If you ever had
the chance to see a majestic stand of Sarracenia leucophylla in
Baldwin County, keep it in your memory. The old moniker was well deserved.
county could be considered the hub of Sarracenia migration, distribution,
or even perhaps evolution because six species have been discovered within
its borders. Specifically, the acreage that I purchased originally had
Sarracenia leucophylla, S. purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii,
S. psittacina, Drosera capillaris, D. filiformis var. tracyi, D.
intermedia, Pinguicula lutea, and Utricularia juncea. Additionally,
Sarracenia alata, S. flava, and S. rubra subsp. wherryi
were found within 30 km (18 miles) from the site in other isolated
I began an
earnest search for the ideal bog in Baldwin County in late 1984. I was
lucky and managed to connect with a very savvy real estate agent who fully
understood what I was looking for. The local jargon for pitcher plants
was "bug catchers," so I used the term to describe what was needed on
the property. In March of 1985, she called and said she had a forty acre
plot that looked promising. Jim Miller, a good friend of mine who once
lived in Tallahassee, Florida, just could not wait to see and explore
the savanna bog. Jim, a carnivorous plant enthusiast, professional photographer,
and author of "The Status of Gulf Coast CP Populations" had moved to Sacramento,
California in 1982 and was getting antsy to visit the southern bogs again.
Jim flew to Atlanta and we headed down to the gulf on a lucky April 1st
to visit Jim's old haunts and see the property.
We first checked
out the damage to the Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa
var. burkii and Sarracenia psittacina that were growing
just off the highway in apron and drainage ditches west of Tallahassee.
The roadside was recently mowed and the S. purpurea pitchers were
cut in half. The shiny interiors of the traps were fully exposed and prominent
in the short grass. About ten feet from the asphalt, Jim spotted a totally
yellow-greenish leaf and bent down to take a closer look. The plant had
a number of growth points, which is fairly common when plants are subjected
to multiple cuttings during their development.
green S. purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii plants
in dense wire grass and heavily shaded niches is very common in southern
forests. When a plant at first glance appears to be totally green, it
usually turns out to have some minute red venation near the nectar roll
(rim), or a reddish color on newly forming immature pitchers. Jim carefully
spread the pitchers apart and tried to detect the usual light pink or
red pigments in the remaining halved leaves. None was found, but we only
had a bisected pitcher to work with.
this plant could be an all-green form and growing in a very precarious
location, Jim removed the plant for safe keeping and left a pup to maintain
genetic diversity. We searched the immediate area for other possible anthocyanin-free
plants. While some plants were very green, they all had some pink/red
pigmentation in them. We concluded our visit and Jim was able to nurse
the plant back to good health in his Sacramento greenhouse.
purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii is the southern form
of S. purpurea subsp. venosa and produces broader and typically
larger pitchers than its more northern cousin S. purpurea subsp.
venosa. The flower is not only larger, but is on a shorter, stouter
peduncle, and produces pink rather than dark red petals. The anthocyanin-free
plants are obviously reproducible mutants that lack pigmentation genes.
The mutation is similar to that of the northern anthocyanin-free Sarracenia
purpurea subsp. purpurea f. heterophylla. Apparently,
direct habitat competition coupled with loss of habitat in general this
century has restricted the distribution of this rare form. Also, the yellow-flowering
form is genetically recessive and normal genetic blending with adjacent
red S. purpurea cancels the full recessive color features.
Jim and I lost
contact with each other for a number of years and I became oblivious to
the actual growing status of the plant. In the meantime, Leo Song was
able to leave his Nepenthes loaded greenhouses at California State
University at Fullerton for a quick field trip in May of 1987. We drove
down to my bog and it was here, while walking through the field of Sarracenia
leucophylla and S. purpurea, that I found the second anthocyanin-free
Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii. Wow!
And right there on my own property. The bog had been burned in February
and the eerie greenish-yellow plant stood out like a beacon against the
charred organic soil. This plant immediately brought back fond memories
from my earlier trip with Jim and I eagerly extracted this specimen for
closer observation back home.
Sad to say,
the plant was lost (via unauthorized removal) from my collection by someone
who apparently needed it more than I. While the loss was traumatic at
the time, I knew as a plant propagator/breeder that the genetic structure
for more anthocyanin-free plants could still be within one or more of
the plants at the farm. The only problem was determining which one. I
needed to capture seed from a heterozygous plant that carried the yellow
recessive genes and hoped it was either self-pollinated or outcrossed
to another heterozygous plant with the exact genetic codes to allow the
recessive yellow characteristics to remain and become fixed in the gene
pattern. These complicated mating scenarios, coupled with the fact that
predators of all sorts destroy a substantial number of ripening seed pods,
made the actual task of finding and producing more yellow-flowering plants
a daunting one. Nevertheless, I began the task in 1989 by collecting seed
from about 25 plants that were growing adjacent to the area where the
original yellow plant was found. Of the nearly 10,000 plants that were
grown, not one exhibited the desired physical traits.
I quickly realized
that I would have to change my strategy or accept the fact that this particular
detective effort could become a multi-decade project. Mother Nature's
genetic engineering program is often measured in millennia and is therefore
not coordinated with human life spans. Therefore, I extended the collecting
range and sowed about 100,000 S. purpurea subsp. venosa
var. burkii seeds. Eureka! A few seedlings popped up that immediately
exhibited the anthocyanin-free eerie yellow green pitcher color. Remembering
the loss problems of a few years earlier, I gave the seedlings to the
Atlanta Botanical Garden for safe keeping. The seedlings have prospered
under their care, flowered (pure yellow as expected, see Back Cover),
and produced viable seed from which plants have been raised and will eventually
be offered to members of the ICPS.
By the way,
I managed to stumble onto a third anthocyanin-free plant of Sarracenia
purpurea subsp. venosa var burkii in 1991. Again, it
was right in my bog, about 100 meters from plant #2. While I could suspend
the original detective project, I enjoy the challenge and now get sporadic
crops of anthocyanin-free S. purpurea subsp. venosa var.
burkii plants. I only sow about 50,000 seeds and feel that
I am closing in on the heterozygous plant(s) in the field that produce(s)
these unique yellow-flowering plants.
Jim has moved
back to Tallahassee and his original plant #1 is still going strong and
has produced several offshoots and, of course, those magnificent bright
yellow petals and yellowish (luteola in Latin) green pitchers.
color, I have noticed only two major distinctions between the normal Sarracenia
purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii and the yellow-flowering
form: (1)mature plants seem to be slightly smaller (reduced pitcher size),
and (2)they do not produce as much pollen as the normal purple/red or
mottled plants of this species. The more compact growth could be attributed
to the age of our plants as well as to genetic growth factors related
to being anthocyanin-free plants. A colony of these apparently rare yellow
forms of Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii
plants will be established from my production plants and reintroduced
to my bog for additional long term studies.
plants of Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa var. burkii
in the field is indeed rare. If anyone else has managed to stumble
onto one while strolling through the southern savanna carnivorous plant
bogs I would be interested in hearing from them. It will be interesting
to note and document their additional occurrence along the southern gulf
coast in future pages of ICPS publications.
or graduate field ecologists and botanists interested in doing research
studies on a private bog are welcome to use the property after their proposal
is approved. I encourage its use for dedicated short or long term field
research studies and projects to enhance carnivorous plant knowledge.
Researchers will be able to observe and participate in field growing and
production techniques that are currently being used and developed by carnivorous
I am formally
publishing the description of this taxon as follows:
purpurea L. subsp. venosa (Raf.) Wherry var. burkii
Schnell f. luteola Hanrahan and Miller f. nov.
A var. burkii
f. burkii partibus omnibus vegatativis anthocianino carentibus,
his colore luteo-viride suffusis et petalis florum luteis distinguenda.
var. burkii f. burkii in that all vegetative parts are yellow-green
without anthocyanin, and flower petals are yellow.
Alabama, Baldwin County near Elsanor. Material from Hanrahan property
near Elsanor, Alabama. Hanrahan and Miller 001. Holotype: (GA). The herbarium
accession number at the University of Georgia is 222692.
Refers to yellow flower petals and yellow-green color of leaves.
Alabama (Baldwin County) into western Florida to just west of Tallahasee.
bogs and savannas.
wish to thank the editorial staff of Carnivorous Plant Newsletter for
accepting, reviewing, and formalizing this document into a publishable
state. Specifically, Joe Mazrimas for ICPS coordination and Dr. Barry
Rice for his botanical collaboration. Thanks are also due the staff
of the Atlanta Botanical Garden under the direction of Ron Determann for
producing and distributing plants at a nominal cost to the ICPS membership,
Mike Moore of the University of Georgia Herbarium for cataloging and mounting
the herbarium specimens, and special thanks must go to Dr. Donald Schnell,
whose initial expert critique, suggestions, and guidance made this entire
effort possible. And finally, to anyone who ever acquired plants from
World Insectivorous Plants--indirectly, you contributed to the acquisition
of the bog in which two of the three known naturally occurring plants
of this very rare form were found and from which they will hopefully be
propagated throughout eternity.
D. E. 1981, Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp venosa (Raf.)
Wherry: Variations In The Carolinas Coastal Plain, Castanea, 46: 225-234.
D. E. 1993, Sarracenia purpurea L. subsp. venosa (Raf.)
Wherry var. burkii Schnell (Sarraceniaceae)---A New Variety Of
The Gulf Coastal Plain, Rhodora, 95: 6-10.
T. 1933, The Geographic Relations Of Sarracenia purpurea, Bartonia
Rear Cover: Sarracenia purpurea
subsp. venosa var. burkii f. luteola. Photo by Jim