Nepenthes, also called Pitcher Plants ,
are insect eating plants. There are about
76 varieties. 30 of them are on the island
of Borneo. The plants are native to Asia,
Australia, The Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia,
Sumatra, and some other Pacific Rim islands.
They are protected by law and are very rare,
These plants grow as vines, in the under
growth, or up in the canopy of tropical forests.
In order to grow in places that are poor in
nutrients, Nepenthes have adapted a
carnivorous lifestyle, which supplements
their intake of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Nepenthes rajah produces the largest
pitchers that are shaped somewhat like
kettledrums, the est pitchers being up to
14 inches (35 cm) long by 7 inches (18 cm)
wide. Pitchers are located growing from
the ends of some leaves by what could
appear to be an umbilical cord, called a
tendril. Nepenthes pitchers contain watery
or syrupy fluid and digestive enzymes
which are used to drown their prey.
Prey is attracted to the pitcher by
color and odor. Downward pointing
hairs inside the pitcher make it difficult
for prey to escape Some plants can grow
large enough to capture small animals
such as frogs. Surrounding the entrance
to the trap is a structure called the lip which
is slippery, waxy and often quite colorful,
attracting prey but offering an unsure
footing. Above the lip is a lid. In many
species this keeps rain from diluting the
fluid within the pitcher. The lower part of
the trap contains glands which absorb
nutrients from captured prey. Most
species of Nepenthes have symbiotic
relationships with arthropods such as
ants or spiders. The pitcher plant provides
the ants with shelter inside the tendril.
The ants collect insects that have fallen
into the pitcher and feed on them. The
pitcher plant gets sufficient nutrients
from the insects in the pitcher, yet the
ants prevent insects from piling up in
the pitcher and decomposing, which
can be detrimental to the plant.