Misunderstandings about Pitcher Plants

Filed under: Nepenthes — David @ 12:57 am

ARTICLE INDEX
- Pitcher Plants are expensive, difficult to care for and die easily!
- They are jungle plants and will die in cultivation!
- Pitcher Plants can only be grown in the highlands!
- Why doesn’t the Pitcher lid close when an insect drops in?
- Pitcher Plants are poisonous and they bite people!
- Pitcher Plants need to be shaded from the sun or they will die!
- Pitchers are the flowers of the Nepenthes plant!

Pitcher Plants are expensive, difficult to care for and die easily!

A lot of people think that Pitcher Plants are expensive, difficult to care for and die easily. This misunderstanding stems mainly from the lack of knowledge on these wonderful plants. Even in my country, Malaysia, where Pitcher Plants are native to the forest vegetation, they are only known vaguely by description and understood as mosquito plants or plants with water in their pitchers for monkeys to drink. Incidentally, Pitcher Plant traps are not made to capture mosquitoes. No species are known to capture mosquitoes. However, Pitcher Plants are actually easy to care for if they are given a little understanding.

They are jungle plants and will die in cultivation!

The allegation that they will die because they are jungle plants is perhaps true to a certain extent. The chances of survival for jungle collected plants are low. This is due to the shock the plants experience when they are dug out from their home in the jungle. Pitcher Plants do not like drastic change in their environment. Most species of Pitcher Plants are categorized under appendix 2 of the endangered species category and are protected by CITES, an international organization set up to protect endangered species. Malaysia is a member of CITES. The solution is to buy from reputable nurseries that carry tissue cultured plants rather than collect them in the wild. Tissue cultured plants are cultivated and will not die that easily. They are already acclimatized to cultivation environment.

Pitcher Plants can only be grown in the highlands where the weather is cold!

This is not true. There are over 100 species of Pitcher Plants worldwide. Out of these, 30% grows in a lowland habitat while the other 70% grows in a highland habitat. So even if you are not living in the highlands or in a country with cold weather, you can still collect and grow Pitcher Plants from the 30% lowland species. If you add the many beautiful hybrids available, you’ll have more than enough for your collection.

Why doesn’t the Pitchers on my Pitcher Plants close its lid when an insect drops in?

Another misunderstanding about Pitcher Plants is that the pitcher lid closes when an insect drops into the pitcher. They actually do not move or close their lid at all. Perhaps Pitcher Plants are confused with their distant cousin Dionaea Muscipula, more popularly known as the Venus Fly Trap that is found in North/South Carolina, United States America. The leaves snap shut when an insect prey wonders into its trap looking for nectar.

Pitcher Plants are poisonous and they bite people!

One very popular misunderstanding about Pitcher Plants is that they are poisonous and they eat or bite people. Worried parents have asked me before if their kids would be safe around them or whether the plant will bite their children. Perhaps we should blame horror movies like “Little Shop Of Horrors” for such a scare. The liquid within the pitcher is sterile when the pitcher is first formed. Some natives in my country, the “Orang Asli”, use this sterile liquid to wash their eyes when they have eye infection. When an insect falls into the liquid, the liquid becomes a little acidic. However, it is not acidic enough to burn your hand if you come in contact with it.

Pitcher Plants need to be shaded from the sun or they will die!

Perhaps the most popular misunderstanding about Pitcher Plants is that they need to be shaded from the sun. To my knowledge, this is the number one reason why a lot of people complain that Pitcher Plants die easily. The truth is almost all Pitcher Plant species need bright light or at least a few hours of sun a day to grow well. Some species grow directly under the scorching sun all day. Only a handful of species grow under the shaded forest canopy (N. ampullaria, N. veitchii, N. bicalcarata, etc). You must understand that even though Pitcher Plants are carnivorous, they still need sunlight for photosynthesis and to help its growth. Insects to Pitcher Plants are like fertilizers to normal plants. Normal plants will also die if they are only given fertilizer and no sunlight.

Pitchers are the flowers of the Nepenthes plant!

The pitchers are NOT the flowers of the Nepenthes plant. It is in fact an extension of its leaves. The purpose of the pitcher is to capture insects. If it were the flowers, it would have killed the transporters (insect) that are helping it transfer pollen. The actual flowers are not attractive, very tiny and are grouped together.

 

1 Comment »

  1. David, thanks for all this info and wonderfull website. You have put a lot of effort into the design. We appreciate it. Casper

    Comment by Casper — January 5, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

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