Browning Pitcher Plants: Why A Pitcher Plant Turns Yellow Or Brown

Browning Pitcher Plants: Why A Pitcher Plant Turns Yellow Or Brown

By: Kristi Waterworth

Adding a pitcher plant or three to your garden or interior space adds a touch of the unusual. Beyond being interesting carnivorous specimens, the pitcher plant produces a beautiful bloom as a reward to a gardener who has cared for it well. When your pitcher plant turns yellow or brown, it’s not time to panic; these hardy plants are hard to keep down for long.

Is My Pitcher Plant Dying?

More than likely, your pitcher plant is just getting older; browning or yellowing pitcher plants are perfectly normal even when plants have received excellent care. As individual pitchers age, they may start to yellow, then brown and collapse. If it’s only the oldest or largest pitchers doing this, it’s nothing to worry about; your plant is just shedding its oldest pitchers. As fall approaches, a normal plant will begin to go dormant and stop replacing the shed pitchers.

If you’re unsure about pitcher plant care and the pitcher plant turning brown or yellow is discolored all over, you may have bigger problems. Although pitcher plants are bog natives, they don’t tolerate standing water like their carnivorous contemporaries, immediately reduce watering to dry out the soil around the plant’s crown. If you’re watering with tap water, this could be causing problems as well. Many fanciers believe the heavy minerals in tap water can cause injury, so stick to purified or filtered water.

Other Causes of Environmental Stress

Pitcher plants that are changing color may be trying to tell you that something is wrong in their environment. This requires a total evaluation of the system where they live; these plants are not the same as your philodendrons or gerbera daisies and they have very unique needs. Your growing medium should be loose but absorbent, like the bogs from which these plants hail. A slightly acidic pH is also beneficial.

Try moving your plant into a sunny area; pitcher plants need full sun to do their best. However, if you place them in a window with bright, direct sunlight, they may burn, so choose your location carefully.

Humidity should be high, around 60 percent when possible. Moving your plant to a terrarium might improve its color. Remember that carnivorous plants thrive in poor soils and get most of their nutrition from consuming insects; fertilizer can be very damaging to these plants.

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Why is my pitcher plant leaves turning brown?

Also know, how often do you water a pitcher plant?

If you use hard water from the tap, water deeply with distilled water every two to three weeks to flush minerals from the soil. Avoid air-conditioned rooms, which tend to be much too dry for pitcher plants.

One may also ask, how do you water a pitcher plant? Pitcher plants can grow in soggy soil with the water level in the saucer as deep as 1/2 the pot, but most carnivorous plants prefer damp to wet soil, so keep the water at about 1/4 inch and refill as soon as it is nearly gone. Water from below, by adding water to the tray, rather than watering the plant.

Consequently, why is my pitcher plant drying up?

The plant looks like it should do just fine. Pitchers drying up is a normal process but all of them drying up at the same time is generally a sign that it was not being kept in good conditions at the store which is pretty common. Just keep it watered with mineral free water and by a window with part sun.

Should you put water in pitcher plants?

But if you want to do it, knock yourself out. I recommend that you only use purified water. Since these plants do much of their digestion via bacteria, you should probably keep the pitchers filled with a bit of water at all times so the bacterial populations are healthy.

What Can Cause Plant Death?

While there are ways your plant could die from natural causes, more often than not it is due to something unplanned for or done incorrectly in the care. Today we will be covering the most common causes of carnivorous plant death and then we will cover how you can manage this and help your plants thrive.

Over Watering

One of the more typical issues for new gardeners is the belief that more water is better than too little. This is far from the truth as plants can literally drown in their soil, you would be much better off to give them just enough or too little as you can add more if it needs it.

The amount of water required for each plant is a little different so make sure you read up on your plant choice and its desired amount of water.

Using Fertilizer / Over Fertilization

Similar to the watering issues above, everyone thinks they must fertilize their plants for them to succeed and grow strong. While this is true for a great many. and probably most, other plants this is devastating to carnivorous plants.

Carnivorous plants typically grow in very poor soil that contains little to no resources which then requires the plant to be effective at trapping prey. If they don’t have to work because the soil is too rich you can have all kinds of issues due to having an oversupply of those resources.

Some of these issues can be in leaves which are too fragile and dainty to do their job any longer.

How did the pitcher plant become meat-eating?

But did you know that it actually took millions of years before simple, harmless leaves became carnivorous? Yes, it is the mysterious and wonderful product of natural selection! It means that nature itself has favored the growth of leaves with larger dents until it became what we know today.

The plant “evolved” because it has found that eating small insects could give it the necessary Proteins, Nitrogen and other minerals that it couldn’t just seep from the soil.

What Causes Brown Leaves

Even with the best care, brown leaves are fairly common on many houseplants. Keep in mind that it might be perfectly natural for the lower leaves on your plant to first turn pale yellow, then turn brown and drop off. This happens to many kinds of tropical plants as they grow. Over time, the plant will form a bare stem.

However, in some cases, brown leaves are a sign of cultural problems. If too many leaves are falling off, if many leaves turn brown at once, or if the upper leaves start browning your plant might be experiencing one or more of the following problems:  


The family Sarraceniaceae consists of three genera of pitcher plants and is distributed throughout North America and the western portion of the Guiana Highlands in South America. Members of this family commonly inhabit bogs, swamps, wet or sandy meadows, and savannas where the soils are water-saturated, acidic, and deficient in nutrients. The carnivorous traps of this family commonly resemble trumpets, pitchers, or urns and primarily capture insects.

The genus Sarracenia, sometimes known as the trumpet pitcher genus, consists of some 10 species native to eastern North America. Insects and other prey are attracted to the mouth of the pitcher by a trail of nectar-secreting glands that extend downward along the lip to the interior of the pitcher. The throat of the pitcher, just below the lip, is very smooth and sends the animal tumbling down into the liquid pool at the bottom of the pitcher, where it drowns. The body is then digested by enzymes secreted within the leaf. The purple, or common, pitcher plant (S. purpurea) has heavily veined, green to reddish, flaring, juglike leaves that bear downward-pointing bristles to keep prey, including salamanders, from escaping. Its flowers are purple-red. The parrot pitcher plant (S. psittacina) has small, fat, red-veined leaves that are topped by beaklike lids and bears dark red flowers. The sweet pitcher plant (S. rubra) produces dull red, violet-scented flowers. The crimson pitcher plant (S. leucophylla) has white trumpet-shaped pitchers with ruffled upright hoods and scarlet flowers. The yellow pitcher plant (S. flava) has bright yellow flowers and a long, green, trumpet-shaped leaf the lid of which is held upright. One species, the green pitcher plant (S. oreophila), is critically endangered and is found in limited areas of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

The cobra plant (Darlingtonia californica) is the only species of its genus and is native to swamps in mountain areas of northern California and southern Oregon. Its hooded pitcherlike leaves resemble striking cobras and bear purple-red appendages that look similar to a snake’s forked tongue or a set of fangs. Unlike other pitcher plants, the cobra plant does not appear to produce digestive enzymes and instead relies on bacteria to break down its prey.

The genus Heliamphora, known as sun pitchers or marsh pitcher plants, consists of some 23 species native to the rainforest mountains of western Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela. These species form cushions on ridge crests and swampy depressions and bear stout pitchers that can attain a height of 50 cm (20 inches).


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Taxonomy
    • 2.1 Etymology
    • 2.2 Evolution and phylogeny
  • 3 Distribution and habitat
  • 4 Ecological relationships
    • 4.1 Symbioses
    • 4.2 Infauna
    • 4.3 Antimicrobial properties
  • 5 Botanical history
  • 6 Cultivation
  • 7 Hybrids and cultivars
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

Nepenthes species usually consist of a shallow root system and a prostrate or climbing stem, often several metres long and up to 15 m (49 ft) or more, and usually 1 cm (0.4 in) or less in diameter, although this may be thicker in a few species (e.g. N. bicalcarata). From the stems arise alternate, sword-shaped leaves with entire leaf margins. An extension of the midrib (the tendril), which in some species aids in climbing, protrudes from the tip of the leaf at the end of the tendril the pitcher forms. The pitcher starts as a small bud and gradually expands to form a globe- or tube-shaped trap. [4] The shapes can evoke a champagne flute or a condom. [5]

The trap contains a fluid of the plant's own production, which may be watery or more viscous, and is used to drown the prey. This fluid contains viscoelastic biopolymers that may be crucial to the retention of insects within the traps of many species. The viscoelastic fluid in pitchers is especially effective in the retention of winged insects. [6] The trapping efficiency of this fluid remains high, even when significantly diluted by water, as inevitably happens in wet conditions. [7]

The lower part of the trap contains glands which absorb nutrients from captured prey. Along the upper inside part of the trap is a slick, waxy coating which makes the escape of its prey nearly impossible. Surrounding the entrance to the trap is a structure called the peristome (the "lip"), which is slippery and often quite colorful, attracting prey, but offering an unsure footing. The prey-capture effectiveness of the peristome is further enhanced in moist environments, where condensation may cause a thin water film to form on the surface of the peristome. When wet, the slippery surface of the peristome causes insects to ‘aquaplane’, or slip and fall, into the pitcher. [8] Above the peristome is a lid (the operculum) in many species, this keeps rain from diluting the fluid within the pitcher, the underside of which may contain nectar glands which attract prey. [4]

Nepenthes species usually produce two types of pitchers, known as leaf dimorphism. Appearing near the base of the plant are the large, lower traps, which typically sit on the ground. The upper or aerial pitchers are usually larger, coloured differently, and possess different features from the lower pitchers. These upper pitchers usually form as the plant reaches maturity and the plant grows taller. To keep the plant steady, the upper pitchers often form a loop in the tendril, allowing it to wrap around nearby support. In some species (e.g. N. rafflesiana), different prey may be attracted by the two types of pitchers. This varied morphology also often makes identification of species difficult. [4]

Prey usually consists of insects, but the largest species (e.g. N. rajah and N. rafflesiana) may occasionally catch small vertebrates, such as rats and lizards. [9] [10] Records of cultivated plants trapping small birds have been made. [11] [12] Flowers occur in racemes or more rarely in panicles with male and female flowers on separate plants. They are insect-pollinated, the primary agents being flies (including blow flies, midges, and mosquitoes), moths, wasps, and butterflies. [13] Their smells can range from sweet to musty or fungus-like. [14] Seed is typically produced in a four-sided capsule which may contain 50–500 wind-distributed seeds, consisting of a central embryo and two wings, one on either side (though N. pervillei differs).

The genus is cytologically diploid, with all studied species having a chromosome number of 2n=80. [15] [16] This high number is thought to reflect paleopolyploidy (likely 8x or 16x). [16] [17] [18] [19]

About 170 species of Nepenthes are currently recognised as valid. This number is increasing, with several new species being described each year. [20]

Etymology Edit

The genus name Nepenthes was first published in 1737 in Carl Linnaeus's Hortus Cliffortianus. [21] It references a passage in Homer's Odyssey, in which the potion "Nepenthes pharmakon" is given to Helen by an Egyptian queen. "Nepenthe" literally means "without grief" (ne = not, penthos = grief) and, in Greek mythology, is a drug that quells all sorrows with forgetfulness. [14] [22] Linnaeus explained:

If this is not Helen's Nepenthes, it certainly will be for all botanists. What botanist would not be filled with admiration if, after a long journey, he should find this wonderful plant. In his astonishment past ills would be forgotten when beholding this admirable work of the Creator! [translated from Latin by Harry Veitch] [23]

The plant Linnaeus described was N. distillatoria, called bāndurā (බාඳුරා), a species from Sri Lanka. [14]

Nepenthes was formally published as a generic name in 1753 in Linnaeus's famous Species Plantarum, which established botanical nomenclature as it exists today. Nepenthes distillatoria is the type species of the genus. [24]

The name "monkey cups" was discussed in the May 1964 issue of National Geographic, in which Paul A. Zahl wrote: [25]

The carriers called them "monkey cups," a name I had heard elsewhere in reference to Nepenthes, but the implication that monkeys drink the pitcher fluid seemed farfetched. I later proved it true. In Sarawak, I found an orangutan that had been raised as a pet and later freed. As I approached it gingerly in the forest, I offered it a half-full pitcher. To my surprise, the ape accepted it, and with the finesse of a lady at tea, executed a delicate bottoms-up.

The plants are often called kantong semar (Semar's pocket) in Indonesia and sako ni Hudas (Judas' money bag) in the Philippines.

Evolution and phylogeny Edit

An absence of evidence of intermediate species, fossil or living (i.e. a missing link), does not allow forming a phylogenetical timeline for the development of the distinctive traits of modern Nepenthes, which include its relatively rare strict dioecy and carnivorous pitchers. Although Nepenthes is distantly related to several modern genera, among these, even the carnivorous relatives [the sundews (Drosera), Venus flytrap (Dionea muscipula), waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda), and dewy pine (Drosophyllum)], all lack those traits. Among known Nepenthes, no protomodern characteristics or large variations are found, which suggests that all extant species radiated from a single close ancestor bearing all the modern traits. Phylogenetic comparisons of the chloroplast matK gene sequences between Nepenthes species and with related species support this conclusion, long genetic distance between Nepenthes and others, and abruptly diverging "pom-pom" grouping of the Nepenthes species . [26]

Fossilized pollen of Nepenthes-like plants living on the northern Tethys Sea from 65 to 35 million years ago indicates that then-warmer Europe may have been where the proto-Nepenthes developed, and then escaped to Asia and India as Africa collided with Europe and the ensuing climate change wiped out the ancestral species in the original habitat. About 20 million years ago, Borneo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi and possibly even the Philippines were connected to mainland Asia, providing a bridge for the colonization of most sites of Nepenthes species radiation. The extensive landbridges in the area 20,000 years ago during the ice age would have provided access to the remaining sites of Nepenthes populations in Oceania. The main complication with this hypothesis is the presence of Nepenthes on the distant islands of Seychelles and Madagascar. The seeds were thought to have been transferred by seabirds and shorebirds, which rest during their migrations in swampy habitats and may have inadvertently picked up the seeds. This hypothesis is possibly reinforced by the success of the lowland swamp-dwelling N. distillatoria in colonizing so many locations. [26]

The genus Nepenthes is mostly found within the Malay Archipelago, with the greatest biodiversity found on Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, [27] [28] especially in the Borneo montane rain forests. The full range of the genus includes Madagascar (N. madagascariensis and N. masoalensis), the Seychelles (N. pervillei), Sri Lanka (N. distillatoria), and India (N. khasiana) in the west to Australia (N. mirabilis, N. rowanae, and N. tenax) and New Caledonia (N. vieillardii) in the southeast. Most species are restricted to very small ranges, including some only found on individual mountains. These limited distributions and the inaccessibility of the regions often means some species go decades without being rediscovered in the wild (e.g. N. deaniana, which was rediscovered 100 years after its initial discovery). About 10 species have population distributions larger than a single island or group of smaller islands. Nepenthes mirabilis has the distinction of being the most widely distributed species in the genus, ranging from Indochina and throughout the Malay Archipelago to Australia. [4] [29] [30]

Because of the nature of the habitats that Nepenthes species occupy, they are often graded as either lowland or highland species, depending on their altitude above sea level, with 1,200 m (3,937 ft) the rough delineation between lowland and highland. Species growing at lower altitudes require continuously warm climates with little difference between day and night temperatures, whereas highland species thrive when they receive warm days and much cooler nights. Nepenthes lamii grows at a higher altitude than any other in the genus, up to 3,520 m (11,549 ft). [4] [30]

Most Nepenthes species grow in environments that provide high humidity and precipitation and moderate to high light levels. A few species, including N. ampullaria, prefer the dense, shaded forests, but most other species thrive on the margins of tree/shrub communities or clearings. Some species (e.g. N. mirabilis) have been found growing in clear-cut forest areas, roadsides, and disturbed fields. Other species have adapted to growing in savanna-like grass communities. The soils in which Nepenthes species grow are usually acidic and low in nutrients, being composed of peat, white sand, sandstone, or volcanic soils. Exceptions to these generalities include species that thrive in soils with high heavy metal content (e.g. N. rajah), on sandy beaches in the sea spray zone (e.g. N. albomarginata). Other species grow on inselbergs and as lithophytes, while others, such as N. inermis, can grow as epiphytes with no soil contact. [4]

The most obvious interaction between Nepenthes species and their environments, including other organisms, is that of predator and prey. Nepenthes species certainly attract and kill their prey, albeit passively, through active production of attractive colours, sugary nectar, and even sweet scents. From this relationship, the plants primarily gain nitrogen and phosphorus to supplement their nutrient requirements for growth, given these soil nutrients are typically lacking. The most frequent prey is an abundant and diverse group of arthropods, with ants and other insects topping the menu. Other arthropods found frequently include spiders, scorpions, and centipedes, while snails and frogs are more unusual, but not unheard of. The most uncommon prey for Nepenthes species includes rats found in N. rajah. The composition of prey captured depends on many factors, including location, but can incorporate hundreds of individual insects and many different species. [4] While many Nepenthes species are generalists in what they capture, at least one, N. albomarginata, has specialised and almost exclusively traps termites and produces nearly no nectar. Nepenthes albomarginata gains its name from the ring of white trichomes directly beneath the peristome. These trichomes—or "hairs"—are palatable to termites and will attract them to the pitcher. In the course of collecting the edible trichomes, hundreds or thousands of termites will fall into the pitcher. [31] [32]

The blue bottle fly (Calliphora vomitoria) can escape after landing in water on its ventral surface.

The same is true if the fly falls in dorsally (wings-first).

But the viscoelastic properties of N. rafflesiana digestive fluid prevent prey escape, whether the fall is ventral..

..or dorsal. (All videos recorded at 500 frames/s)

Symbioses Edit

N. bicalcarata provides space in the hollow tendrils of its upper pitchers for the carpenter ant Camponotus schmitzi to build nests. The ants take larger prey from the pitchers, which may benefit N. bicalcarata by reducing the amount of putrefaction of collected organic matter that could harm the natural community of infaunal species that aid the plant's digestion. [34]

N. lowii has also formed a dependent relationship, but with vertebrates instead of insects. The pitchers of N. lowii provide a sugary exudate reward on the reflexed pitcher lid (operculum) and a perch for tree shrew species, which have been found eating the exudate and defecating into the pitcher. A 2009 study, which coined the term "tree shrew lavatories", determined between 57 and 100% of the plant's foliar nitrogen uptake comes from the faeces of tree shrews. [35] Another study showed the shape and size of the pitcher orifice of N. lowii exactly match the dimensions of a typical tree shrew (Tupaia montana). [36] [37] A similar adaptation was found in N. macrophylla, N. rajah, N. ampullaria, and is also likely to be present in N. ephippiata. [37] [38]

Similarly, N. hemsleyana, which is native to Borneo, has a symbiotic partnership with Hardwicke's woolly bat. During the day, a bat may roost above the digestive fluid inside the pitcher. While a bat is inside, it may defaecate, and the plant can get nitrogen from the droppings.

Infauna Edit

Organisms that spend at least part of their lives within the pitchers of Nepenthes species are often called Nepenthes infauna. The most common infaunal species, often representing the top trophic level of the infaunal ecosystem, are many species of mosquito larvae. Other infaunal species include fly and midge larvae, spiders, mites, ants, and even a species of crab (Geosesarma malayanum). Many of these species specialise to one pitcher plant species and are found nowhere else. These specialists are called nepenthebionts. Others, often associated with but not dependent on Nepenthes species, are called nepenthophiles. Nepenthexenes, on the other hand, are rarely found in the pitchers, but will often appear when putrefaction approaches a certain threshold, attracting fly larvae that would normally not be found in the pitcher infaunal community. The complex ecological relationship between pitcher plants and infauna is not yet fully understood, but the relationship may be mutualistic: the infauna is given shelter, food, or protection, and the plant that harbours the infauna receives expedited breakdown of captured prey, increasing the rate of digestion and keeping harmful bacterial populations repressed. [34] [39] [40]

Antimicrobial properties Edit

Nepenthes digestive fluids are sterile before pitchers open and contain secondary metabolites and proteins that act as bactericides and fungicides after the pitcher opens. While the digestive fluid is being produced, the pitcher is not yet open, so there is no chance of microbial contamination. During pitcher development, at least 29 digestive proteins including proteases, chitinases, pathogenesis-related proteins and thaumatin-like proteins are produced in the pitcher fluid. In addition to breaking down prey, these can act as antimicrobial agents. [41] When the pitchers open, the fluid is exposed to bacteria, fungal spores, insects and rain. Often pitchers have a lid that covers the trap, excepting a few (e.g. N. lowii, N. attenboroughii and N. jamban), preventing rain water from entering. The lid inhibits rainwater from diluting the digestive fluid. Once the bacteria and fungi enter the fluid, secondary metabolites are produced in addition to antimicrobial proteins. [42] Naphthoquinones, a class of secondary metabolite, are commonly produced, and these either kill or inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria and fungi. [43] This adaptation could have evolved since Nepenthes plants that could produce secondary metabolites and antimicrobial proteins to kill bacteria and fungi were most likely more fit. Plants that produced antimicrobial compounds could prevent loss of valuable nutrients gained from insects within the pitcher. Since Nepenthes cannot digest certain bacteria and fungi, the bactericides and fungicides allow plants to maximize nutrient uptake.

The earliest known record of Nepenthes dates back to the 17th century. In 1658, French colonial governor Étienne de Flacourt published a description of a pitcher plant in his seminal work Histoire de la Grande Isle de Madagascar. It reads: [44]

It is a plant growing about 3 feet high which carries at the end of its leaves, which are 7 inches long, a hollow flower or fruit resembling a small vase, with its own lid, a wonderful sight. There are red ones and yellow ones, the yellow being the biggest. The inhabitants of this country are reluctant to pick the flowers, saying that if somebody does pick them in passing, it will not fail to rain that day. As to that, I and all the other Frenchmen did pick them, but it did not rain. After rain these flowers are full of water, each one containing a good half-glass. [translated from French in Pitcher-Plants of Borneo] [14]

Flacourt called the plant Amramatico, after a local name. More than a century later, this species was formally described as N. madagascariensis. [45]

The second species to be described was N. distillatoria, the Sri Lankan endemic. In 1677, Danish physician Thomas Bartholin made brief mention of it under the name Miranda herba, Latin for "marvellous herb". [46] Three years later, Dutch merchant Jacob Breyne referred to this species as Bandura zingalensium, after a local name for the plant. [47] Bandura subsequently became the most commonly used name for the tropical pitcher plants, until Linnaeus coined Nepenthes in 1737. [14]

Nepenthes distillatoria was again described in 1683, this time by Swedish physician and naturalist Herman Niklas Grim. [48] Grim called it Planta mirabilis destillatoria or the "miraculous distilling plant", and was the first to clearly illustrate a tropical pitcher plant. [14] Three years later, in 1686, English naturalist John Ray quoted Grim as saying: [49]

The root draws up moisture from the earth which with the help of the sun's rays rises up into the plant itself and then flows down through the stems and nerves of the leaves into the natural utensil to be stored there until used for human needs. [translated from Latin in Pitcher-Plants of Borneo] [14]

One of the earliest illustrations of Nepenthes appears in Leonard Plukenet's Almagestum Botanicum of 1696. [50] The plant, called Utricaria vegetabilis zeylanensium, is undoubtedly N. distillatoria. [14]

Around the same time, German botanist Georg Eberhard Rumphius discovered two new Nepenthes species in the Malay Archipelago. Rumphius illustrated the first one, now considered synonymous with N. mirabilis, and gave it the name Cantharifera, meaning "tankard-bearer". The second, referred to as Cantharifera alba, is thought to have been N. maxima. Rumphius described the plants in his most famous work, the six-volume Herbarium Amboinense, a catalogue of the flora of Ambon Island. However, it would not be published until many years after his death. [51]

After going blind in 1670, when the manuscript was only partially complete, Rumphius continued work on Herbarium Amboinensis with the help of clerks and artists. In 1687, with the project nearing completion, at least half of the illustrations were lost in a fire. Persevering, Rumphius and his helpers first completed the book in 1690. However, two years later, the ship carrying the manuscript to the Netherlands was attacked and sunk by the French, forcing them to start over from a copy that had fortunately been retained by Governor-General Johannes Camphuijs. The Herbarium Amboinensis finally arrived in the Netherlands in 1696. Even then, the first volume did not appear until 1741, 39 years after Rumphius's death. By this time, Linnaeus's name Nepenthes had become established. [14]

Nepenthes distillatoria was again illustrated in Johannes Burmann's Thesaurus Zeylanicus of 1737. The drawing depicts the end of a flowering stem with pitchers. Burmann refers to the plant as Bandura zeylanica. [52]

The next mention of tropical pitcher plants was made in 1790, when Portuguese priest João de Loureiro described Phyllamphora mirabilis, or the "marvellous urn-shaped leaf", from Vietnam. Despite living in the country for around 35 years, it seems unlikely that Loureiro observed living plants of this species, as he stated the lid is a moving part, actively opening and closing. In his most celebrated work, Flora Cochinchinensis, he writes: [53]

[. ] (the) leaf-tip ends in a long hanging tendril, twisted spirally in the middle, from which hangs a sort of vase, oblong, pot-bellied, with a smooth lip with a projecting margin and a lid affixed to one side, which of its own nature freely opens and closes in order to receive the dew and store it. A marvellous work of the Lord! [translated from French in Pitcher-Plants of Borneo] [14]

Phyllamphora mirabilis was eventually transferred to the genus Nepenthes by Rafarin in 1869. [54] As such, P. mirabilis is the basionym of this most cosmopolitan of tropical pitcher plant species. [34]

Loureiro's description of a moving lid was repeated by Jean Louis Marie Poiret in 1797. Poiret described two of the four Nepenthes species known at the time: N. madagascariensis and N. distillatoria. He gave the former its current name and called the latter Nepente de l'Inde, or simply "Nepenthes of India", although this species is absent from the mainland. In Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's Encyclopédie Méthodique Botanique, he included the following account: [45]

This urn is hollow, as I have just said, usually full of soft, clear water, and then closed. It opens during the day and more than half the liquid disappears, but this loss is repaired during the night, and the next day the urn is full again and closed by its lid. This is its sustenance, and enough for more than one day because it is always about half-full at the approach of night. [translated from French in Pitcher-Plants of Borneo] [14]

With the discovery of new species and Sir Joseph Banks' original introduction of specimens to Europe in 1789, interest in Nepenthes grew throughout the 19th century, culminating in what has been called the "Golden Age of Nepenthes" in the 1880s. [4] [14] However, the popularity of the plants dwindled in the early 20th century, before all but disappearing by World War II. This is evidenced by the fact that no new species were described between 1940 and 1966. The revival of global interest in the cultivation and study of Nepenthes is credited to Japanese botanist Shigeo Kurata, whose work in the 1960s and 1970s did much to bring attention to these plants. [20]

Nepenthes may be cultivated in greenhouses. Easier species include N. alata, N. ventricosa, N. khasiana, and N. sanguinea. These four species are highlanders (N. alata has both lowland and highland forms), some easy lowlander species are N. rafflesiana, N. bicalcarata, N. mirabilis, and N. hirsuta. [55]

Highland forms are those species that grow in habitats generally higher in elevation, and thus exposed to cooler evening temperatures. Lowland forms are those species growing nearer to sea level. Both forms respond best to rainwater (but some tap water works as long as it is flushed monthly with rainwater or water low in dissolved solid and chemicals), bright light (though some species can grow in full sun), a well-drained medium, good air circulation and relatively high humidity, although easier species such as N. alata can adapt to lower humidity environments. Highland species must have night-time cooling to thrive in the long term. Chemical fertilisers are best used at low strength. Occasional feeding with frozen (thawed before use) crickets may be beneficial. Terrarium culture of smaller plants, such as N. bellii, N. × trichocarpa and N. ampullaria, is possible, but most plants will get too large over time. [56] [57]

Plants can be propagated by seed, cuttings, and tissue culture. Seeds are usually sown on damp chopped Sphagnum moss, or on sterile plant tissue culture media once they have been properly disinfected. The seeds generally become nonviable soon after harvesting, so seed are not usually the preferred method of propagation. A 1:1 mixture of orchid medium with moss or perlite has been used for germination and culture. Seed may take two months to germinate, and two years or more to yield mature plants. Cuttings may be rooted in damp Sphagnum moss in a plastic bag or tank with high humidity and moderate light. They can begin to root in one to two months and start to form pitchers in about six months. Tissue culture is now used commercially and helps reduce collection of wild plants, as well as making many rare species available to hobbyists at reasonable prices. Nepenthes species are considered threatened or endangered plants and all of them are listed in CITES appendices 2, with the exception of N. rajah and N. khasiana which are listed in CITES appendix 1. [56] : 353

There are many hybrid Nepenthes and numerous named cultivars. Some of the more well-known, artificially produced hybrids and cultivars include: [ citation needed ]

  • N. × coccinea ((N. rafflesiana × N. ampullaria) × N. mirabilis)
  • N. × ventrata (N. ventricosa × N. alata)
  • N. × 'Bloody Mary' (N. ventricosa × N. ampullaria)
  • N. 'D'amato' (N. lowii × N. ventricosa)
  • N. × mixta (N. northiana × N. maxima)
  • N. 'Syurga' (N. ventricosa × N. northiana)
  • N. 'Menarik' (N. rafflesiana × N. veitchii)
  • N. 'Emmarene' (N. khasiana × N. ventricosa)
  • N. 'Judith Finn' (N. spathulata × N. veitchii)

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