Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School


Committee Member

Dr. Maggie Hanes, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Daniel Clemans, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dr. Kristin Judd, Ph.D.


Carnivorous pitcher plants trap insects in cone-shaped leaves and digest them to gain vital nutrients. For digestion to occur, plants in the genus Sarracenia require mutualistic microorganisms living in their leaves. Few studies have examined how these communities change over time. This study specifically examines the bacterial composition in the most widely distributed species, Sarracenia purpurea, in the winter. The leaves of this plant species live for several years, and it is unknown whether microbes overwinter in pitcher fluid or if community structure must be reestablished each spring. This study aims to characterize the winter microbiome in two population of Sarracenia collected between the months of November 2012 and January 2014 in two different ways: DNA from the fluid of 57 pitchers in one population was extracted and amplified using ARISA-PCR, and metabolic substrate usage was measured in 36 pitchers in two populations. Bacteria from eight phyla were recovered. The number of unique genera identified within one leaf ranged from 27-60, and the number of unique phylotypes per sample ranged from 59-186. Metabolic usage dropped drastically from summer/fall levels in December, only to rebound in January. Results indicate a large, diverse, and dynamic community of microbes present throughout the winter that are capable of using a wide variety of carbon substrates.

Included in

Biology Commons