top of page

Darlingtonia: California Pitcher Plant

The genus Darlingtonia is a monotypic group, containing a single species (though this species does have a couple of different described forms). A Pacific Northwest endemic, it was discovered in the mid 1800's and named as it is currently known. However, at the time there was another plant genus (a group of legumes) that had already been christened with the Darlingtonia moniker and so the Cobra Lily was renamed as Chysamphora. The obscure legumes were eventually reassigned to other genera however, and due to the lack of use for their genus name and the popularity it had gained for this plant instead, authorities for botanical nomenclature voted for the return of Darlingtonia to denoting the Cobra Lily. 

This species is the most ancient of the family Sarraceniaceae, genetically basal to both the southeastern American pitcher plants and the Marsh Pitchers of South America, despite having some of the most "advanced" trapping techniques. Though primarily a pitfall trap, this plant also utilizes some of the "lobster pot" traits as seen in species like the Parrot pitcher (Sarracenia psittacina) and the Corkscrew plants, luring insects into a collared hood with the promise of nectar and areoles in the hood that permit daylight into the interior, before the collar prevents easy access to the exit and instead downward pointing hairs lead the trapped organism toward the watery pool in the bottom of the leaf. 

Cobra Lilies are also enigmatic in that pollinators have not been identified with any certainty. Barry Rice (manager of the Carnivorous Plant FAQ page and writer of the book Growing Carnivorous Plants) has noted on his site of observations of burrowing bees visiting the flowers, and midges have also been identified occasionally, but other researchers have also noted spiders as being common residents in the flowers and several other insects visiting occasionally, but none with certain reliability as of yet.

bottom of page