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Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes)

Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, are another genus of carnivorous plants with pitfall traps. Nepenthes present a vine-like appearance and are much sought after due to the incredible shapes and colours of the pitchers. There are about 130 species that are wide spread, and can be found in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Madagascar, Seychelles, Australia, India, Borneo and Sumatra. The nickname “monkey cups” comes from the fact that monkeys have often been observed drinking rain water from them.

Most species of Nepenthes are tall creepers (10-15m), with a shallow root system. From the stem you will often see sword like leaves growing, with a tendril (often used for climbing) protruding from the tip of the leaf. At the end of the tendril, the pitcher forms first as a small bulb, which then expands and forms the cup. The trap contains fluid, produced by the plant, which may be watery ors syrupy and is used to drown and digest the insects. The lower part of the cup contains glands that absorb and distribute nutrients. Most of these plants are small and tend to trap only insects, but some larger species, such as Nepenthes Rafflesiana and Nepenthes Rajah, have been documented to catch small mammals like rats.


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