Pitcher Plants of Kinabalu

Do you know that:

  • Mount Kinabalu and Kinabalu Park is famous with it’s pitcher plants – apart from Rafflesia?
  • Pitcher plants is famous for their leaves, not the flower?

The leaf tips of insect-eating pitcher plants form colorful cups. Nine species of pitcher plants grow on Mount Kinabalu. The pitchers, flushed maroon and pink, come in a variety of fancy shapes and sizes. Species St. John reported finding a pitcher of the largest species, Nephentes rajah, containing 4 liters (3 1/2 quarts) of liquid. Another was digesting a drowned rat.

Nephentes villosa - you can see it during your hike at Kinabalu

The hollow cup of the pitcher plant acts like a trap and a stomach. Insects are attracted to nectar secreted from glands near the mouth of the pitcher. Upon entering the cup, they slide down the slippery side; their escape out is blocked by downward pointing spines. They eventually drown in the slimy ooze at the bottom and are digested. The plant absorbs its lunch through the walls of the leaf. Thus pitcher plants can survive in very poor soil. They rely on nourishment from the insect corpses.

A few specialized insects actually make their home in the pitcher. Some feed on the decomposing insects. Others breed in the fetid pool at the bottom of the pitcher.

Nephentes rajah - Notice anything about this photo?

Want to see more photo on pitcher plants? I have few more on Mount Tambuyukon photo by Dr. Ravi.

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