Project Description

Slender Pitcher Plant

Nepenthes gracilis is a type of pitcher plant that is commonly known as the Slender Pitcher Plant and is found in the Sunda region, such as Borneo. This plant can be characteristically identified due to the presence of the pitchers. The pitchers present on this plant are slender, elongated and have a slightly pinched center (Page, 1999). The leaf blades present in this plant are also quite narrow and often have tendrils extending from the tips. The tendril is used by the plant to gain support and this is achieved by twining the tendril around another plant. As the plant matures, these tendrils eventually develop into pitchers (Page, 1999).

The pitchers present on this plant act as pitfall traps and lure prey inside it using a combination of odours and a reddish brown colouring. The colouring of the pitchers makes it appear similar to rotting meat. A mature pitcher plant has inflated pitchers with the bottom filled with a liquid. The liquid inside the pitchers attracts insects with a sweet smelling odour, similar to nectar (Kato, 1993). Once the insect goes inside the pitcher, it has a hard time getting back out, as there is a waxy coating on the insides of the pitcher preventing the insects from climbing back out. When the insects fall into the liquid, they get broken down by the strong digestive enzymes in the liquid (Kato, 1993).

Through this mechanism the pitcher plants are able to digest various insects. The insects digested by the plants are used to obtain nitrogen which is an essential nutrient required for plant growth. These plants are typically found in environments such as bogs and fens, and these habitats often have very poor soils lacking in some essential nutrients (Botanical Society of America). Therefore, in order to survive the pitcher plants have developed this mechanism of obtaining their own nitrogen (Botanical Society of America).

Works Cited

Botanical Society of America. Carnivorous Plants / Insectivorous Plants. Accessed from: http://botany.org/Carnivorous_Plants/

Kato M, 1993. Floral Biology of Nepenthes gracilis. American Journal of Botany, 80: 924-927.

Page T, Lennon KA. 1999. Structure and development of the pitchers from the carnivorous plant Nepenthes Alata. American Journal of Botany, 86: 1382-1390.