The Tropical Pitcher Plant
I’ve found this amazing plant and I’ve grown it in my garden before. But it died because of the humid weather in Thailand. Anyway, I want to show you this amazing plant and what can it do.
Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, is a genus of carnivorous plants in the monotypic family Nepenthaceae. The genus comprises roughly 150 species, and numerous natural and many cultivated hybrids. They are mostly liana-forming plants of the Old World tropics, ranging from South China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines; westward to Madagascar (two species) and the Seychelles (one); southward to Australia (three) and New Caledonia (one); and northward to India (one) and Sri Lanka (one). The greatest diversity occurs on Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, with many endemic species. Many are plants of hot, humid, lowland areas, but the majority are tropical montane plants, receiving warm days but cool to cold, humid nights year round. A few are considered tropical alpine, with cool days and nights near freezing. The name “monkey cups” refers to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from these plants.
Nepenthes species usually consist of a shallow root system and a prostrate or climbing stem, often several metres long and up to 15 m (49 ft) or more, and usually 1 cm (0.4 in) or less in diameter, although this may be thicker in a few species (e.g. N. bicalcarata). From the stems arise alternate, sword-shaped leaves with entire leaf margins. An extension of the midrib (the tendril), which in some species aids in climbing, protrudes from the tip of the leaf; at the end of the tendril the pitcher forms. The pitcher starts as a small bud and gradually expands to form a globe- or tube-shaped trap.
The trap contains a fluid of the plant’s own production, which may be watery or syrupy, and is used to drown the prey. Research has shown this fluid contains viscoelastic biopolymers that may be crucial to the retention of insects within the traps of many species. The viscoelastic fluid in pitchers is especially effective in the retention of winged insects. The trapping efficiency of this fluid remains high, even when significantly diluted by water, as inevitably happens in wet conditions.
The lower part of the trap contains glands which absorb nutrients from captured prey. Along the upper inside part of the trap is a slick, waxy coating which makes the escape of its prey nearly impossible. Surrounding the entrance to the trap is a structure called the peristome (the “lip”) which is slippery and often quite colorful, attracting prey, but offering an unsure footing. The prey-capture effectiveness of the peristome is further enhanced in moist environments, where condensation may cause a thin water film to form on the surface of the peristome. When wet, the slippery surface of the peristome causes insects to ‘aquaplane’, or slip and fall, into the pitcher. Above the peristome is a lid (the operculum); in many species, this keeps rain from diluting the fluid within the pitcher, the underside of which may contain nectar glands which attract prey.
Prey usually consists of insects, but the largest species (e.g. N. rajah and N. rafflesiana) may occasionally catch small vertebrates, such as rats and lizards.There are even records of cultivated plants trapping small birds. Flowers occur in racemes or more rarely in panicles with male and female flowers on separate plants. They are insect-pollinated, the primary agents being flies (including blow flies, midges, and mosquitoes), moths, wasps, and butterflies. Their smells can range from sweet to musty or fungus-like. Seed is typically produced in a four-sided capsule which may contain 50–500 wind-distributed seeds, consisting of a central embryo and two wings, one on either side.