Ranger, Ansou Gunsalem shows off a N. rajah pitcher
in the Mesilau Reserve
plants are fascinating in that they capture and digest various prey
in order to accumulate nutrients for growth. The habitats where
they normally occur are nutrient poor. There are many species of
carnivorous plants and they are found throughout the world. Of the
seven genera of Pitcher plants, the Nepenthes genus is the largest
found from Northern Australia throughout Southeast Asia to Southern
China. There are also some species found in India, Madagascar, and
a few other islands.
photo was taken from the steep N. rajah habitat around
2500 meters looking towards the lower forested zone
island of Borneo has more Nepenthes species (approximately 31 species
not including subspecies or varieties) than any other landmass.
There are three countries that divide Borneo; Malaysia, Brunei,
and Kalimantan. In the state of Sabah, Malaysia, Mt. Kinabalu at
4101 meters has nine species of which four are endemic to the mountain
and surrounding areas.
gave the epithet Nepenthes as the name of this genus of Pitcher
plants. It is a Greek word meaning “removing all sorrow”
originally given by Homer in the Odyssey to an Egyptian drug thought
now to have been opium. Apparently the liquid found in the pitchers
was the analogy.
close-up of N. rajah
rajah was named in honor of Sir James Brooke, one of the white Rajahs
of Sarawak (the other Malaysian State in Borneo). It is only found
on Mt. Kinabalu and an adjacent mountain, Mt. Tambuyukon, between
the altitudes of 1500-2600 meters. The pitchers can grow large enough
to contain up to one liter of fluid and are normally found on the
ground contrary to most species that have stems that grow up into
trees and have pitchers growing off them. This Pitcher plant is
famous for it's ability to catch and digest rats, frogs, and lizards.
Most other Nepenthes sp. capture a wide variety of small invertebrates
and insects but nothing as large as a rat.
seen in these photos, the habitat where N. rajah is found is usually
moist, well drained, open grassy clearings that are prone to landslides.
The soil conditions are always ultramafic. This is soil that is
very low in silica content and very rich in iron and magnesium.
These photos were all taken in the Mesilau forest preserve at the
higher end of their latitudinal habitat at approximately 2600 meters.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES) has listed two species of Nepenthes in Appendix
I, which includes all species threatened with extinction. Nepenthes
rajah and N. khasiana are on Appendix I. All other species of Nepenthes
are on Appendix II, which includes all species which although not
necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless
trade in specimens of these species is subject to strict regulation
in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
of Borneo” by Charles Clarke, Natural History Publications
(Borneo) Sdn. Bhd., 1997
A view of the pitcher showing the liquid
into which animals fall and drown
A seedling showing tiny pitchers