The northern pitcher plant is common in Nova Scotia, where it makes its home in acidic bogs. We had not seen them here, though, until recently, when we came upon an open acidic bog on the southern end of the island.During the 1940s, when Fort McNutt and its guns were in place, much of this area was deforested. There used to be a pond here, according to those who know. Now it is an open bog -- a place where it really isn't possible to walk because you can't tell whether there is any solid ground below your feet.
The leaves of the pitcher plant are carnivorous. The leaves emit an odor of decay that attracts insects. Then an inner lining of stiff downward-pointing hairs sends the insects sliding into small pools of water that collect in the base of the leaves. There dreadful things happen to them, but quickly, before they know it.
Meanwhile the pitcher plant's flower rises serenely above the carnage.
In an acidic bog there is little nitrogen available for the roots of plants. The decomposed insects become usable nitrogen for this graceful flower.
An open bog is a phase in a process. Eventually the bog will dry out as it fills in with layer upon layer of decomposing mosses and grasses and other plant life. The mosses will become peat, and the spruces that now surround the bog will invade it. It will become a forest again, and the pitcher plant will not grow here any longer.