Monday, 24 November 2014

Creature 55: Nepenthes

Revenge of the plants
Nepenthes is a genus of plants commonly know as a tropical pitcher plant. Their common name comes from the fact that they grow some of their leaves into a structure which resembles a pitcher.

In tropical rain forests there is a lot of competition between different plants for access to light. It can be a huge advantage to a plant if they can devise a strategy which enables them to thrive in area in which most plants can't grow. Tropical pitcher plants specialize in poor quality low nutrient soils. They can occupy this niche due by supplementing the soil nutrients with those of dying animals. It obtains these dying animals through a really cool trick their leaves have developed. They attract unsuspecting prey animals with the promise of rewards. As they enter the pitcher plants cup shaped leaves they get trapped in a thick syrupy bio polymer which the plant produces. The thick sticky syrup makes it impossible for many prey items to escape and as they die and slowly rot they release the nutrients stored in their body for the benefit of the plant.
The different members of the genus are quite varied in appearance and in scent depending of the particular prey they are targeting. 

The pitchers used to trap animals are not flowers although they will sometimes appear to be. The flowers are brush like in shape and fairly small.

The tropical pitcher plant is found in South East Asia, Melanesia, Northern Australia, Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean Islands and the East coast of Madagascar.

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Angiosperms
Class: Dicotyledon
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Nepenthaceae
Genus: Nepenthes

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