Northern purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea) is an easily recognized, long-lived, carnivorous plant. There are no other plants in Minnesota that even vaguely resemble it. It occurs in the United States from Maine to New Jersey west to Minnesota, in Washington State, and throughout southern Canada. It is found in bogs, fens, swamps and peatlands. It grows under full sun in sphagnum moss or in soil that has both peat and sand. It obtains most of its nutrients from captured insects. The soil it grows in is nutrient-poor and usually acidic, and cannot support many other plants. Individual plants can live up to 50 years in favorable conditions. However, its population has been declining due to habitat loss and possibly to nitrogen deposition from air pollution.
Northern purple pitcherplant rises on a radiating rosette of 6 to 10 leaves and a single flowering stem. It often forms dense clumps, sometimes floating masses at the edges of bog ponds and lakes. The leaves are modified into pitchers with an erect hood at the top and an orifice that is open to the sky, allowing it to collect rainwater. The inner surface of the hood is covered with numerous, stiff, downward-pointing hairs. The solitary flower is purplish-red and droops at the end of a long leafless stalk.