The Butterworts

     Butterworts are amongst the most delicate and lovely plants out there, and are carnivorous too. There are only three species in North Carolina, and the one on the left, the Dwarf Butterwort (image kindly provided by is our smallest one. It grows in wet pinelands and savannahs in a very few counties in North Carolina. The other species, the Yellow and the Blue Butterworts, are somewhat less rare, but are still  only found in a few scattered localities.
     The traps are the whole leaf surface, which exudes a sticky fluid which gives the plants their name, from the greasy, buttery feeling of the leaf surfaces. Small insects such as midges and gnats are attracted to the wet surface, and are mired in it to be digested by enzymes present in the fluid.

     Both the Blue and Yellow Butterwort are said to be in the Carolina Beach preserve near Wilmington, though I have never seen them there; it is more famous for Venus Flytraps, though both the Butterworts and the Flytraps take some hunting, as they will be covered by grasses and sedges by mid-summer.

     The Butterworts are in the family Lentibulariaceae, and are in the genus Pinguicula. The Dwarf Butterwort is Pinguicula pumila Michaux, the Yellow is P. lutea Walter, and the Blue is P. caerulea Walter. All of these can be gotten from nurseries, ,but I would strongly suggest reading the cultural requirements closely, as these can be a bit more difficult than Pitcher Plants. As the temperate species require dormancy, they will not do well indoors; you might want to go with tropical ones in that case. If you live further north, you might want to get a more northern species and grow it outdoors. In any case, read up on them first; they are easy to kill.

Copyright 2002-3 The Appalachian Naturalist. All photos by permission of the author.