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East Indian Pitcher-plant

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East Indian Pitcher-plant
Nepenthes rafflesiana.jpg
Scientific Classification

approx. 112 species

The East Indian Pitcher-plants are species of carnivorous pitcher plants in the taxonomic family Nepenthaceae. It is a monotypic family containing only one genus, but having over 100 species.

They were first recorded in Madagascar in the 17th century, and are often referred to as monkey cups because monkeys have been seen to drink rainwater collected in the leaves. Nepenthes received its genus name from a drug in Greek mythology, given to Helen of Troy in the works of Homer. The name in Greek literally means without grief (ne-not, pntheos-grief). In Greek mythology, it is a drug that gets rid of sorrow with forgetfulness.[1]


Nepenthes are climbing vines that grow on trees and other vegetation. They have long, sword-shaped leaves with twisting tendrils at the end. The tendrils grow on the ends of the leaves and hold on to nearby vegetation to support the growing of the pitchers. The pitcher grow at the ends of the tendrils.[2] When the pitchers start forming the weight causes them to droop down into a cup shape, then they "inflate." The pitchers grow with lids on them that stay closed until fully formed. Then, the lid opens to attract prey with colors and scents.[3] A lot of species of pitcher plants grow different types of pitchers at the top and bottom of the same plant.[4]


Each Nepenthes plant is either male or female. The plants that grow male flowers are much more common than the female ones.[5] Once the flowers are fertilized 10-60 seeds are produced in a four sided capsule. The seeds of the Nepenthes plants are spread by wind. They have two wings that grow on either side of a central ovary.[6]

Nepenthes rajah


East-Indian Pitcher plants are found in the wild in Madagascar, Southeast Asia and in Australia. They are categorized in two main groups; highlanders and lowlanders. Highlanders tend to grow at elevations over 1000 ft above sea level. Lowlanders are below 1000 ft though there is some overlap.[7] Highlanders grow best in temperatures in the low 70s (80s during the day and 40s-low 50s at night). Lowlanders grow best in higher temperatures (80s-90s during the day and 60s-70s at night). The fluctuation of temperature from day to night helps the plants thrive. Exposure to higher or lower temperatures for long periods of time can be fatal to pitcher plants.[8] Although Nepenthes are carnivorous plants, many animals form symbiotic relationships with them. Colonies of ants have been reported to live by the plants. These ants take advantage of organisms trapped in the pitchers for food. This is also beneficial to the Nepenthes because the ants tear the prey into smaller pieces that are easier to digest.[9]


Nepenthes 1.jpg

Nepenthes pitcher plants are carnivorous plants, meaning that they eat other organisms. These plants form pitchers in their leaves to lure and trap prey. The lids of the pitchers are open and colored and give off an odor of nectar to attract organisms. Once an animal is lured to the plant, it will fall into the pitcher that has a waxy coating to prevent escape. Movement from the struggling prey inside the pitcher stimulates glands in the leaf to release more digestive juices to kill and break down prey.[10] The diet of the nepenthes plants mostly consists of insects and other small arthropods. Some larger species of nepenthes, like the N. rajah, sometimes capture small vertebrates such as frogs or mice.[11]