Butterworts (Pinguicula)

Pinguicula means “little greasy one” in Latin and is a reference to their distinctly buttery or greasy feel.  Butterworts are found throughout the northern hemisphere from Siberia to North America and also grow southwards into Central and South America.  Mexico is home to the widest variety, where dozens of new species have been discovered in the last twenty years.

Butterworts are small herbaceous plants that produce rosettes of usually flat leaves, often with upturned margins.  The leaf surface is covered in minute, sticky hairs that catch small prey like gnats, fruit flies and springtails.  Sessile glands secrete a liquid of enzymes and acids that rapidly overcome and dissolve the prey.  This mineral-rich soup is then absorbed by the plant. Butterworts from cold winter climates hibernate as small buds.  Species from Mexico turn into non-carnivorous succulent plants during the subtropical winter dry season.

Butterworts are most famous for their beautiful, often long-lasting flowers, which are hummingbird pollinated in the wild.  For more information on how to grow these plants check out our Pinguicula growing tips.