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Highland tropical pitcher plant growing at Eden

Chris shows us how this carnivorous plant catches its prey.

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Facts

  • The pitchers of this plant trap insects that are then digested as food.
  • The water held by the pitchers is sometimes enjoyed by monkeys (hence one of the plant’s common names) and even parched humans looking for refreshment in the tropical heat.
  • The stems of some species of pitcher plants are used in Sri Lanka and Malaysia for basket-making and cordage.

Where it grows 

Nepenthes pitcher plants are native to the Old World tropics, with the greatest diversity occurring around Borneo (Indonesia/Malaysia/Brunei) and Sumatra (Malaysia). The plant featured on this page is a cross (hybrid) of two highland species and is only known in cultivation. This hybrid requires a minimum temperature of 8.5°C in the winter and a maximum of 21°C in the summer, and ample moisture and high humidity throughout.

Wildlife facts

Many pitcher plants (Nepenthes sp.) have modified leaves that can form a vase or pitcher-shaped vessel that produces a sweet syrupy secretion that attracts insects and dissolves them into nutritious goo that is then absorbed back into the plant. Although these plants mainly catch insects, some species have been known to catch animals as large as birds and small rodents.

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Glossary

  • Capsule: dry fruit that opens by valves, slits or pores to release seeds (dehiscent) and is composed of two or more united carpels (the basic unit of the female sexual organ).
  • Lanceolate: narrowly ovate and tapering to a point.