Native Americans were probably familiar with Sarracenia or Pitcher Plants for a considerable length of time before European explorers discovered them sometime during the early 1500s. The earliest known illustration of Sarracenia was published in 1576 in De L'Obel's, Nova Stirpium Adversaria. The Canadian physician, Dr. M. S. Sarrazin, sent plants, presumably Sarracenia purpurea, to a Mr. Tournefort in Europe. Tournefort's description of the plants became the basis of the genus which was named in honor of Dr. Sarrazin. Although numerous early authors suggested the possible carnivorous nature of these plants, none pursued the subject. Goebel and Higley demonstrated that Sarracenia plants can absorb materials through the pitcher walls. Zipperer in 1885 detected digestive enzymes in the plants' secretions. In 1918 Hepburn, St. John, and Jones demonstrated categorically that the plants are capable of digesting prey.
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