The Ecology of Hybridizing Pitcher Plants in Isolated Mountain Bogs

Dr. Rebecca Hale, University of North Carolina, Asheville

Wayne Morgan, UNC Asheville Biology

Elise Powell, UNC Asheville Biology

Leila Beikmohamadi, Western Carolina University, Psychology

Mara Alexander, US Bureau of Land Management

Caroline Kennedy, UNC Asheville Biology

Jennifer Rhode Ward, UNC Asheville Biology

Pitchers of the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea, are distinctly shorter and broader than those of other Sarracenia, which allows them to hold pools of rainwater. These phytotelma are subsequently colonized by a diverse invertebrate and microbial community, which appears to influence plant growth and reproductive effort. S. purpurea readily hybridizes with congeners to produce rosettes with morphologically intermediate pitchers, which are colonized by a similarly diverse, but less dense, community. Here, we tie together two aspects of our research investigating the ecology of hybrid pitcher plants. We show that morphology of hybrids is intermediate between that of their parent species, S. purpurea var. montana and S. jonesii (mountain sweet pitcher plant). We also show that phytotelma community diversity and number of colonists varies with pitcher morphology. Finally, we related these data to recent analyses that link phytotelma communities to plant growth and reproductive effort, and consider the implications for the conservation of cooccurring, rare pitcher plants.

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