Godfrey's Butterwort

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Godfrey's Butterwort

Pinguicula ionantha

ListedJuly 12, 1993
FamilyLentibulariaceae (Bladderwort)
DescriptionPerennial, carnivorous plant with rosette of fleshy, oblong, green flowers, and flowers on leafless talks.
HabitatGentle slopes, deep quagmire bogs, ditches, and depressions in grassy pine flatwoods.
ThreatsRoadside maintenance, fire control, land conversion to pine plantations, pasture, or agricultural use.


Pinguicula ionantha (Godfrey's butterwort) is a perennial, carnivorous plant and is closely related to the snapdragon family. It has a rosette of fleshy, oblong, bright green leaves that are rounded at their tips, with only the edges rolled upward. The rosette is about 6 in (15 cm) across. The upper surfaces of the leaves are covered with short glandular hairs that capture insects. The flowers are on leafless stalks (scapes) about 4-6 in (10-15 cm) tall. When a flower is fully open, its corolla is about 1 in (2.5 cm) across. The five corolla lobes are pale violet to white. The throat of the corolla and the corolla tube are deeper violet with dark violet veins. The corolla has a spur 0.2 in (0.5 cm) long that is yellow to olive in color.


Godfrey's butterwort inhabits seepage bogs on gentle slopes, deep quagmire bogs, ditches, and depressions in grassy pine flatwoods and grassy savannahs. It often occurs in shallow standing water most often in full sunlight or partial shade. A similar species, P. primulifolia, occurs in the same geographic area, but it often occupies flowing water and shaded areas. Another endemic butterwort species, P. planifolia, occurs with Godfrey's butter-wort at one site. In Franklin County, Godfrey's butterwort occurs at a savanna with a particularly rich flora, including white birds-in-a-nest and Florida skullcap, both Federally listed as threatened species.

Savannahs (e.g., grass-sedge bogs or wet prairies) are nearly treeless and shrubless and have a large diversity of grass, sedge, and herb species.

Godfrey's butterwort is one of three Pinguicula species in the southeastern United States whose leaves are usually submerged. It is a carnivorous plant species that traps insects on its leaves and then consumes them.


Historic records concerning the distribution of this species are rare. Records dating back to the 1950's indicate the species occurred in the Florida panhandle near the Gulf Coast between Tallahassee and Panama City. Four occurrences are in the Apalachicola National Forest in Liberty County. Other records exist for Bay, Franklin, Gulf, and Liberty Counties.

Distribution records for Godfrey's butterwort prior to 1970 listed 8 occurrences; none have been relocated. There are 12 occurrences for the period 1980 to 1990.

Populations of Godfrey's butterwort fluctuate in size. A site at Carrabelle that supported an abundant population in 1990 contained few plants in 1991. Such changes mean that long-term changes in abundance of this plant are probably difficult to assess.

This species is locally abundant on the Apalachicola National Forest and was, until recently, locally abundant on unprotected sites.


Savannahs and related vegetation are commercially valueless unless they are converted to pine plantations, pasture, or agricultural lands. Methods used to prepare sites for these uses can be detrimental to native herbaceous vegetation. Godfrey's butterwort may initially do well in areas converted to pine plantations if pockets of standing water exist. As the pines mature shading increases and Godfrey's butterwort will, most likely, be shaded out. The species is unlikely to re-colonize pine plantations following conversion.

Savannah herbs such as Godfrey's butterwort may exist in powerline or roadside right-of-ways. These sites are not necessarily permanent and maintenance activities could disturb or destroy the plants.

Fire control has allowed woody vegetation to invade savannahs and to eventually exclude Godfrey's butterwort and other endemic plants.

Godfrey's butterwort was a highly prized carnivorous plant to collectors in the 1970s. This consumptive practice has died down since that time but collecting still occurs. The species is sold by at least three nurseries in the United States.

Savannah vegetation, grassy seepage bogs, and the grassy understory of flatwoods (largely wire-grass, Aristida stricta ) are maintained by frequent, low-intensity fires. Lightning fires tend to occur during the growing season. The frequency and season of fire is important to the plant species that make up the vegetation, but fire effects can be subtle and more research is needed if fire management is to be applied scientifically to conserve the native flora.

Conservation and Recovery

The Godfrey's butterwort is locally abundant in Apalachicola National Forest. Its habitat on this public land should be strictly protected from any threatening activities, including the establishment of pine plantations. Its other critical habitats are on privately owned land, and are potentially threatened by various human influences. State and Federal land acquisition projects on the southern periphery of the National Forest will protect and restore habitat for this rare plant, possibly enough to allow its delisting. Additional private habitat can be protected by negotiating conservation easements with the landowners. The populations of the Godfrey's butterwort should be monitored, and research undertaken into its biology, habitat needs, and beneficial management practices, such as prescribed fire.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida Ecological Services Field Office
P. O. Box 2676
Vero Beach, Florida 32961-2676
Telephone: (407) 562-3909
Fax: 407-562-4288

Panama City Ecological Services Field Office
1612 June Avenue
Panama City, Florida 32405-3721
Telephone: 904-769-0552
Fax: 904-763-2177

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 12 July 1993 "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered or Threatened Status for Five Florida Plants." Federal Register 58(131): 37432-37443.