Beautiful Butterworts, by Paul Miller
Butterworts, or ‘Pings’ (an abbreviation of the scientific genus Pinguicula), are members of an insectivorous plant family called the Lentibulariaceae which includes the bladderworts. It is the most species rich family of carnivorous plants on Earth. By definition, carnivorous plants make their living digesting the protein provided by insects that they capture.
The earliest species of butterwort to flower in the Preserve is the delicate Small Butterwort (Pinguicula pumila). As you might guess from its common name, of the three species of pings in the Preserve, this is the smallest. Interestingly, Small Butterwort blooms in the fall-winter in Florida but in April-May in the rest of the southeast. In November 2013 the species was observed flowering in an area where the ground orchid Fragrant Ladiestresses (Spiranthes odorata) was blooming. (More on ladies tresses in a future blog post!)
As January rolls into February, and on into March, a real treat occurs. Two species of butterwort, both listed as threatened in the state of Florida, begin to reveal themselves with very beautiful and showy flowers: Yellow-flowered Butterwort (Pinguicula lutea) and Blueflower Butterwort (P. caerulea). In one location, ‘Butterwort Marsh’, they even occur together, making a subtle, yet stunning display.