Sun Pitcher Plant – Heliamphora
The Sun Pitcher Plant (Heliamphora) is an exotic pitcher plant growing among the clouds of South America. A relative of the North American Sarracenia and Darlingtonia californica, the pitfall traps turn solid hues of green, red, and dark purple. They employ many of the same tactics as other pitcher plants – a “pitfall” trap with slick surfaces, sweet nectar trails, and sharp downward-facing hairs to prevent insect escape – but in a streamlined appearance as compared to its cousins. Unique physiological characteristics include thicker, squat pitchers, a nectar spoon above the trap’s opening, and beautiful white-pink flowers that lack petals.
In the last few decades, numerous additional Heliamphora species were discovered bringing the total to 23 – more than the species of Sarracenia in North America.
Biology of a Sun Pitcher Plant
The Sun Pitcher uses many of the same tactics as other pitcher plants, – a “pitfall” trap including the slippery lip, sweet nectar trails up and down the pitcher to lure crawling insects, and sharp downward facing hairs which both lead bugs into the trap and prevent their escape. The Sun Pitcher, however, has evolved further to refine its trapping mechanism.
Sub-soil biology & requirements
Heliamphora grow on mountaintops with daytime temperatures between 60-72 degrees and nighttime temperatures between 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Dips near-freezing are not uncommon. They are considered highland tropicals and will survive extreme lows down to 35 degrees and highs up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Frequent rainstorms are fueled by condensing clouds as they rise up the sides of the mountains, keep Heliamphora pitchers filled, and humidity high. Stormy winds are common, so good air circulation is a must.
With time, healthy Heliamphora produce offshoots that grow into beautiful plant clumps that can be divided into new plants.
Heliamphora flowers are beautiful and emerge from the plant on tall, red stems during winter and spring. They open progressively along the length of the stem and require cross-pollination with a special technique.
Where to find Sun Pitchers in the wild
Sun pitcher plants are found atop the tepui mountains of the Guayana Highlands peak in southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. It’s a magical area 6,000-8,000 feet above sea level, rising even above the clouds themselves.