Wareham Forest’s carnivorous, purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) were reported to have been introduced to the area in the 1980s (ref Kew Royal Botanic Gardens).

Non-native, these exotic-looking plants are extremely invasive and have started to take over an area of Wareham Forest, affecting the diversity and rare plants that live there.

Pitcher plants like to live in slightly acidic soils and some of the boggier areas of Wareham Forest provide an ideal environment.

Named appropriately due to their strangely-shaped, fleshy and modified leaves (like pitchers), they trap unwary insects, beetles and spiders etc., which cannot escape and so drown. The pitcher plant’s digestive juices then gradually absorb the nutrients from the decaying corpses.

I was told by the Forestry Commission that the Wareham Forest pitcher plants are carefully controlled so that they don’t encroach too much. According to a thread on the Carnivorous Plant Society forum, the seed heads of these pitcher plants are removed before flowering, and some of the plants on the outer edges are uprooted. This helps to prevent them from spreading.

Pitcher plant flowering at Wareham Forest, Dorset

A pitcher plant’s cup-shaped flowers. At Wareham Forest, Dorset.

Purple pitcher plant at Wareham Forest, Dorset
Purple pitcher plant at Wareham Forest, Dorset

Purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) growing at Wareham Forest.
All photos © Lindsey Harris.