Recently-Discovered Carnivorous Plant Eats Bugs, Rats

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 11, 2009 2:48 pm

pitcher.jpgAudrey it’s not—but it’s pretty close. A large meat-eating plant, dubbed the “pitcher plant,” was discovered in 2007 in the Philippines, and the details of the discovery have now been published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. And when we say “meat-eating,” we mean it can stomach animals as large as rats.

While you’re probably familiar with the Venus fly trap or other plants that use their sticky surface to attack before closing their leaves on prey, the pitcher plant has a trapping method that’s unique: It relies on its huge base to send insects and other animals hurtling inside.

In 2000, Christian missionaries spotted the new species on Mount Victoria. Seven years later, a British natural history explorer, a botanist, and a German scientist set out to the Philippines on a two month expedition to see if they too, could locate the new species. They discovered the largest carnivorous pitcher plant ever found, called Nepenthes attenboroughii.

BBC News reports:

“The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats,” says [Stewart McPherson, natural history explorer at the Red Fern Natural History Productions].

The pitcher plant does not appear to grow in large numbers, but McPherson hopes the remote, inaccessible mountain top location, which as only been climbed a handful of times, will help prevent poachers from reaching it.

In other words, these pitcher plants are unlikely to have any commercial value. So better stick with Venus fly traps if you’re interested in plants for the home.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Venus Fly Trap
DISCOVER: Flesh Eating Plants

Image: flickr/ cathy.hennessy

MORE ABOUT: carnivores, nature, plants

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