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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Carnivrous Plants: Pinguicula moranensis

Pinguicula moranensis commonly known as Butterwort is a carnivorous plants which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. It succulent leaves are covered in pednucular (stalked) mucilaginous (sticky) glands which help it to attract and trap arthropods (invertebrate animals with exoskeletons) which it then digests with the sesile (flat) glands. The pednucular glands secrete a sticky substance which appears like droplets of water on the leaf. When an arthropod (mainly insects) touched the pednucular gland it releases more of the sticky substance and when the insect struggles to free itself it triggers other nearby glands to release more until it is encased in it.

Pinguicula moranensis in the Bristol University Botanical Gardens Greenhouses

The leaf can bend itself slightly through thigmotropism to bring more glands into contact with the prey. Once the prey is entrapped the sesile glands release digestive enzymes which to digest the prey breaking down the digestible parts of its body into liquids which are then reabsorbed by the leaf through cuticular holes leaving only the chitin exoskeleton behind.

The etymology of the genus name Pinguicula comes from the Latin pinguis which mean fat because of the buttery texture of the leaves while the specific name moranensis refers to its type location, Mina de Moran in the Sierra de Pachuca. This is where the three botanists Humbolt, Bonpland and Kunth collected specimens of the plant during an expedition in early 1800s. However, in 1999 a Mexican botanist S. Zamudio collected specimens in the same area and noted that the plants he had collected did not share the original description given by Humbolt, Bonpland and Kunt
Further investigation based on the travels of the earlier expedition led Zamudio to conclude that the plants collected by Humbolt, Bonpland and Kunt were most likely from an area called "El Puente de la Madre de Dios" in the Mexican state of Higaldo. He confirmed this by finding matching specimens of the plants in that area.
So it appears that due to some mix up these plants were misnamed. In the end Zamudio published his findings as a variation of  Pinguicula moranensis under the name Pinguicula moranensis var. neovolcanica.

Additional Information:

Scientific Name: Pinguicula moranensis
Common names: Butterwort (English); grassette de Moran (French); fleischfressende Pflanze (German); Violeta de barranca (Spanish);

Taxonomic hierarchy: 

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae – Green plants
Infrakingdom: Streptophyta – Land plants
Division: Tracheophyta – Vascular plants
Subdivision: Spermatophytina – Spermatophytes (seed plants)
Infradivision: Angiospermae – Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida
Superorder: Asteranae
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lentibulariaceae – bladderworts
Genus: Pinguicula – 
Species: Pinguicula moranensis
  • I am using the taxonomical classification system used by ITIS (Intergrated Taxonomic Information System). I have decided to use this system in order to avoid confusion as well as because it offers a comprehensive hierarchy from kingdom right through to subspecies whereas other sources only go as far as order or  provide the names of some of the higher taxonomical ranks but only indicate "unclassified" rather than providing the rank.
  • When and where possible I will endeavour to include alternatives classifications although  I may limit this to occasions where an opportunity arises to discuss the reason for the different classifications.
  • Taxonomical data used in this post was retrieved [June 15 2014], from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database,

On-line sources:

Additional resources:

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  1. An interesting article on butterwort. I've found this plant in coastal MS before, but it was many years ago and I don't remember exactly where it was. Found you through the LinkedIn "share your blog" post, btw.

    1. Hello Madison,
      Thanks for the feed back. I'm always wondering how people find the blog as well as what they find interesting or want to see or read more about, so I really appreciate it when readers leave comments.
      At the moment I'm guessing from the small bits of information that I have gotten that people seem to prefer a bit of a narrative as well as some nice photos. So that is what I am trying to work with: Photos of plants and critter, mainly garden related but also about places such as botanical gardens, green spaces, forests and other locations that I have visited in various countries with some information about these places, and additional profiles of the plants and animals ranging from taxonomical information to how to grow certain plants, the culinary, medical and other uses of some plants as well as any other tid-bits of information I can find ranging from the etymology of the names to their significance in mythology and stories.
      Best regards

    2. By the way I visited your blog and found it interesting although I could not leave a comment because it required a WordPress Account which I do not have :(
      In any case I am not sure but according to
      Alexander Senning's "Elsevier's Dictionary of Chemoetymology: The Whys and Whences of Chemical Nomenclature and Terminology" the etymology of the specific name for Omphalotus illudens, illudens actually comes from the Latin illudere (to mock) although why this is so is something that escapes me. Apparently these mushrooms contain a compound illudin (same etymology) which being examined for potential use in the treatment of cancer because of it's cytotoxic properties.
      Also I'm not an etymologist but I think that the "bee" that tried to get the spider of a wasp, of some sort.

  2. Vincent, thank you for clarifying the meaning of the mushroom name! I suspect the illudens refers to the fact that it looks similar to the chanterelle and is often mistaken for it. And yes, I also believe the "bee" is actually a wasp of some sort, lol, but so far I haven't been able to find out what kind. Not sure if it's coincidence or not, but I handled the mushroom a lot while carrying it around to dark rooms trying to find one dark enough to see the luminescence and today my stomach has been fairly upset all day. I think I'll be more cautious with future experiments just to be safe, lol.

    Thanks for sharing your information! I've tried to change the settings so anyone can comment, but it doesn't appear to be helping. Sorry about that :(

  3. Madison, I hope you are okay. I do not know much about mushrooms which is why I tend to leave them alone although I would probably have been just as tempted to experiment with them in the dark if they glowed like those ones do. I have been wanting to do some fungi posts. I actually have one from a visit to Brugges last year. I will have to dig up the photo and ask friends the name again. They told me the Dutch name but I should be able to track down the Scientific name and other common names using that. I let you know when I do that so you can have a look.
    You might try asking some entomologists at a nearby university about the wasp. I was very annoyed to have missed a bee day at the Bristol University Botanical Gardens last month as I would have liked to have been able to get a host of bee photos identified not to mention finally make arrangements for some bee hive photos and talk to some bee people about bees etc for some bee related posts I have been wanting to do ... Well I sort of have some bee posts but I want to do some in depth posts on bees ranging from honey production in the cities to the whole bee colony collapse problem etc. I have been wanting to add a bit more serious hardcore environmental and science material to this blog.

    I really do hope that you are feeling better and please take care in the future when handling them.

  4. All is well :) Might have been coincidence, but you never can tell. It wasn't so bad that I regret having played with the mushrooms, lol.