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Pitcher plant cups

Highland tropical pitcher plant

The water held by these plants is sometimes enjoyed by monkeys (hence one of the plant’s common names) and even parched humans looking for refreshment in the tropical heat! Look out for them growing in the 'Canopy plants' section of our Rainforest Biome.

Botanical description

  • Scientific name: Nepenthes spectabilis x ventricosa
  • Family: Nepenthaceae (tropical pitcher plants)
  • Also known as: Monkey cup

Did you know?

The stems of some species of pitcher plants are used in Sri Lanka and Malaysia for basket-making and cordage.

Carnivorous, climbing, semi-woody herb up to 15m tall. Leaves loosely spiraling, lanceolate with midrib forming a tendril at leaf tip, which often forms a pitcher. Pitchers up to 35cm long, held upright from the end of a pendulous tendril, hollow inside where insect digestion occurs, often contain water; lids brightly coloured with nectar-secreting glands. Flowering structures spikes of small yellowish flowers. Fruits dehiscent leathery capsules containing lots of seeds.

Pitcher plant

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 (Indonesia). 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.

Frog in pitcher plant

Wildlife facts

The pitchers of this plant trap insects that are then digested as food. 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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